Lost and Found
Atheneum, 2008 192 pgs.
Identical twins, Jay & Ray Grayson, have always been treated as a unit. No one can tell them apart, including their own parents. Mom and Dad have to do an "ankle check" (one twin has a freckle on his ankle) to know who is who. As much as they enjoy having a constant companion, it gets a bit tiresome sometimes, since neither of them have a friend of their own. After moving to a new school and having to endure the first day alone because Ray is sick, Jay finds out what it is like to not be a twin. He enjoys the experience and even makes a friend. Through a glitch in the system Jay realizes that there is no record of Ray and they don't know there is a second boy. Because of this discovery a great/horrible idea is hatched. He convinces Ray to take turns attending school and being Jay Grayson, so that they can both experience life as an individual and not part of an identical set. At first the experiment is liberating and then complications kick in, including a trip to the mall, talking to the other guy's crush, playing sports with different abilities, and explaining away the disappearance of a new bruise from the day before. Beyond this, guilt sets in. Both boys confess their secret to a different friend and the school gossip chain gets rolling. Just when the boys are ready to kill each other and are ready to confess, a wise school nurse figures out the deception, their cover is blown, and all heck breaks loose.
Clements, a former teacher, is the master of the school story. He understands the way school run and how kids think. Lost and Found is the perfect example of good kids making bad choices and facing the consequences, all within a school ecosystem. Who hasn't fantasized about being a twin? Growing up I always envied twins, having that built in best friend to share everything with. Lost and Found explores the realities within the twin/sibling relationship and we see first-hand what life is actually like for them. Part of the twin fantasy is having that person go to school for you or do your unpleasant things for you. This fantasy is also debunked. We understand Jay and Ray's deception and experience the reasons for their bad decisions, which escalate into more bad decisions. They are good, likable kids, who want to step out of their twindom for awhile, except the way they go about it is misguided. Eventually they get caught and face the necessary consequences. So, lessons are learned, a great story is enjoyed, and all is well that ends well. From the cover and the print size of the words I judged the book to be appropriate for my third/fourth grade book club (where I host two sets of twins and a group of triplets). After reading the book I would put it a little older maturity wise (the boys are awkward around girls,have crushes, and skip school) making this a great book for reluctant readers, both girls and boys. My only complaint is that although Clements was very intentional in giving Ray and Jay distinctive personalities, I still got confused by who was who. I suspect that young readers would also have this problem, but it does not take away from the enjoyment of the book and the progression of the plot. This is an enjoyable book that will pretty much appeal to anyone and would make a great read aloud in a classroom setting.