Being sixteen sure does suck sometimes.
Yet Mike DeVelli Jr. knows he is destined for greatness. His mother always told him so—at least, until the unfortunate day an overdose took her to an early grave. Now he must face the pitying gazes of the students he always struggled to fit in with.
But then he catches the eye of a popular girl at school. They agree to meet, but she fails to show and is soon reported missing. Mike becomes a suspect in her disappearance, and as the investigation mounts, he decides his only option is to find the real culprit.
Getting closer to the truth, he learns that his seemingly ordinary family tree has supernatural roots, and as he comes face to face with a hungry, evil enemy, he discovers a power inside himself that will create a wave of change in the world."
Inspired by the album of the same name, Rawiri James has written a compelling Young Adult mystery thriller that satisfies not only as the self-contained story of Brooklynite Mike DeVelli Jr, but also serves as the beginning of a unique music-and-novel odyssey he hopes will span countries, continents and music genres.
“I had nearly finished recording my album and wanted to find a unique way of presenting the record to a public audience,” James says. “Initially, I was going to create a comic book using some of the lyrics to the songs. Before I knew it, I’d written 25 pages of backstory, all about Mike DeVelli Jr. – a kid with an addictive personality and a superpower to match.”
The result was Rawiri James’s first novel, a feat he completed in just five weeks. “I had planned the story out across the 12 chapters so the process of writing the pages was just a good mix of discipline and excitement. I would start each day thinking about what scene came next, who was winning, who was in pain, and more importantly, who was next to be killed off!”
Uniquely, the 12 chapters of the novel are named after the 12 songs featured on the album. Rawiri says, “the album is my story, for sure. The book is Mike DeVelli Jr.’s story. Thematically there’s a lot of crossover. Really, Mike’s story is about identity, and beginning to understand who you are… the good things and the not-so-good things. DeVelli is a good kid but he makes mistakes. He’s just learning his place in the world. He reminds me of me at sixteen and seventeen.”
Themes of alcoholism and addiction run through the book, with DeVelli Sr. turning to the bottle to cope with grief, and Mike himself battling obsessive compulsive actions around food and exercise. “It’s not my job to judge or preach to people, but as the writer, and someone who has lived experience with addiction, I consider it my responsibility to be as honest and unwavering as possible. Hopefully, by talking about some of these issues, it starts conversations about how to change negative habits into more positive ones.”
The book features a host of characters of colour, another anomaly in the world of YA fiction, and one in which Rawiri James is keen to point out. “I’ve read and loved plenty of stories about Caucasian characters. I don’t feel the need to contribute to them, because there’s already so many great examples out there. It’s far more interesting for me to tell minority stories. And as someone of mixed-race heritage, my experience of both privilege and discrimination has shaped my world view and offers something different.” In Lost Boy alone, major characters are of Native American, African American, Puerto Rican, Malaysian and Indian descent, while white characters fulfil supporting roles.
When asked if there will be a Part 2, Rawiri James smirks. “In my mind, there’s scope for so much more exploration of this world, so, if people want a sequel, I’m happy to give it to them. Right now, I’m just happy that people are getting to know Mike and Nicole and Joey. It was a pleasure for me to understand them and help tell their story.”
Lost Boy is available on digital download, October 4th, 2019.
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