"LOST BOYS," by Darcey Rosenblatt, Holt Books for Young Readers, 288 pages (f) (ages 9-12)

“What I don’t get is how God can make music and pomegranates and killing, too.”

Set in 1980s Iran, "Lost Boys" tells the story of 12-year-old Reza, who must confront this and other difficult questions when he and his friend join their country’s military effort.

More than anything, Reza wants to listen to the banned tapes his uncle brings him — Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, the Beatles. Not only does his mother not understand this passion for music, but she pressures Reza until he signs up with the army. While his best friend is sure being a soldier will be an adventure just like the movies, Reza is certain that reality will be much more horrific. When his fears turn out to be understatements, Reza must find a way to heal his body and soul, and find his way back to faith. Back to music.

This is an important story that can raise awareness for a time in our world’s history that many readers may know very little about. Darcey Rosenblatt weaves the tale beautifully, giving us an earnest main character that is relatable, regardless of gender or ethnicity. She makes particularly good use of simile and metaphor that elevates the level of the prose, such as when she describes returning soldiers looking “hollow and worn around the edges, as if their words had been recorded years ago and now the tape was stretched and brittle.”

Although this is a war story, and therefore deals with difficult themes and the violence that accompanies war, Rosenblatt presents these themes and images with a delicate touch. The boys confront minefields, wounds, death and abuse, but the scenes are not written in an overly graphic way and are accurate to the period in which Rosenblatt is writing. This may be a safe way for parents to talk with their children and teens about violence and the horrors of war. There is no sexual content or innuendo, and no objectionable language.

"Lost Boys" deals with serious themes and powerful history in a way that is approachable for most readers. This important story and the beautiful language will raise awareness and empathy in parents and children alike.

If you go …

What: Tracey Rosenblatt book signing

When: Tuesday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Note: The signing line is for those who buy a copy of the featured book from The King’s English.

Sarah Allen has an MFA in creative writing from BYU and is currently working on books for young adult and middle grade readers. Learn more at sarahallenbooks.com.