From "the queen of heartbreaking prose" (Paste) Helene Dunbar, We Are Lost and Found is a young adult realistic fiction novel in the vein of The Perks of Being a Wallflower about three friends coming-of-age against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Michael is content to live in the shadow of his best friends, James and Becky. Plus, his brother, Connor, has already been kicked out of the house for being gay and laying low seems to be Michael's only chance at avoiding the same fate. To pass the time before graduation, Michael hangs out at The Echo where he can dance and forget about his father's angry words, the pressures of school, and the looming threat of AIDS, a disease that everyone is talking about, but no one understands. Then he meets Gabriel, a boy who actually sees him. A boy who, unlike seemingly everyone else in New York City, is interested in him and not James. And Michael has to decide what he's willing to risk to be himself.
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He spends his time with his two BFFs, who seem to shine in ways that he feels that he cannot. As he is participating in the gay scene on the periphery, going to dance clubs, he is hearing about AIDS and the lack of knowledge around it that leads to a lot of fear. Michael isn't sure how much he should let the fear of it into his life. Then, he meets Gabriel, who also impossibly seems interested in him, and Michael has so many feelings, fears and hopes.
This was a book that really crept up on me. The beginning seems a bit slow as the reader adjusts to the stream-of-consciousness writing style where conversations are relayed without quotation marks and section breaks lead to a different scene/vignette. As I got further into the book, it really started to blow me away. Michael is so incredibly relatable, and through him, the reader experiences not only the difficulties around coming out and being true to oneself but also the fears and unknowns around AIDS at that time. Particularly in the current pandemic, this is so understandable and tangible - it really breathes life into this time period.
There are a lot of flawed characters doing the best they can, and I actually liked how many anti-heroes there are in the story. Even if the reader may not like a lot of the characters, their motivations and paths become clear and understandable, making them feel so much more genuine. Michael really comes into his own as he seeks to find his own path, and I loved the coming-of-age nature set against the 1980s backdrop.
Overall, WE ARE LOST AND FOUND is a highly compelling and original story about fear, hope, and finding oneself despite it all.