Clara is on the run, following her father’s map around the world. She is from England and is now in Minnesota. Something happened to her younger brother that causes her pain, but we don’t know what happened or what her role might have been in the event. Clara sits next to an unusual teen on the plane named Elias. Their conversation is bizarre but what she notices after Elias falls asleep really freaks her out. His notebook is full of sketches about her life. Could he know her secret? When she leaves the plane she realizes that Elias took her bag. She and her friend track him down to get the bag back. When she arrives she finds a bed and breakfast with a cast of characters and Elias’s mother begs her to stay for a while. Perplexed, Clara agrees. She discovers there is much more to Elias than originally thought. His mind is split in two. One half exists in a world in his mind called Salem. Clara and Elias take off on an epic road trip that mirrors The Odyssey as Elias slips in and out of his multiple personalities. They search towns that are named Salem trying to find “the light keeper”, looking for clues that will make Elias whole again. Elias has extraordinary gifts of fixing and building things, including a junker plane they pick up on the way. Jonathan Friesen has a gift for writing about characters with special needs. Elias is a fascinating character. There are boarders at the bed and breakfast who stay because they want to live in the world in his mind. This is a story of discovery and learning the truth about the past and not letting it destroy you. I highly recommend this book. It is a real page turner. It will be released in December 2014.
Ideas for discussing with teens:
What do you think Clara is running from?
What was your reaction to seeing Elias’s sketches of Clara’s life?
Discuss when Juan said, “Or was your brother somehow just right as he was? Clara, if the world in Elias’s mind is a kinder, safer one, why not enjoy it? I mean, we are all running from something.”
Discuss when Clara said, “How strange to find myself drawn to half a boy.” pg. 103
Why do you think the “other one” is looking for the lightkeeper?
Discuss Clara’s interactions with her online friend. What did you think when you found out who it was.
Discuss the guests using the lottery to spend more time in Elias’s Salem.
Would you rather spend time in the real world or Salem?
Discuss the Underground Railroad history of Salem, Ohio.
Discuss when Clara said, “Izzy’s words were going where my affections couldn’t reach. I felt such a fool.” pg. 188
What do you think Elias drew for Kenton?