a lightly supernatural book about healing
TRACE is a book about healing. Trace lives with his Auntie Lea after his parents died in a car accident which he miraculously survived. He is floundering a bit in school and life, mainly due to PTSD symptoms that have him remembering and reliving the car accident. He visits a psychologist, Dr. Proctor, who helps him to cope with these feelings. He has recently been assigned a school project to study and present the 1860s to his class.
As part of this, he goes to the New York Public Library where he ends up finding a boy crying. He soon notices that the boy is transparent- a ghost. As part of his research, he learns about a riot where people burned down the Colored Orphan Asylum and a child may have died. He digs deeper into this trying to understand if this could be the child who died. As he navigates therapy and his school project, he also learns more about the boy he has seen and his family history.
What I loved: The ghost was a relatively small part of the story, but the history lesson was really interesting. We learn a lot through Trace as he investigates. This is also an interesting portrayal of grief, PTSD and the slow recovery of healing in a middle grade book. I really liked how they showed some of the therapy sessions, which is great for young readers to view.
There are also some themes about racism in modern (and historical) America. When Trace reports the ghost as a lost child (before he is fully sure that the boy is a ghost) and the security guards cannot find him, they detain him and confiscate his phone. His aunt discusses this with him in a way that young readers can understand.
What left me wanting more: There were a few comments that were really unnecessary and I wish had been left out or handled more fully/deeply. The first are around the comments about the librarian and the way the boys talk about her body, which felt unnecessary to her description and a bit close to sexual harassment. The second is when an older woman comments about men in general negatively, and Trace assumes she is a lesbian before she mentions her husband. This is not further explained and seemed a little odd or stereotyping.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an interesting story that combines history with the present. The ghost adds an interesting element to the book that gives it an air of mystery. I would recommend for people looking for lightly supernatural stories/mysteries and books about healing.