REVIEW: We Are Lost And Found by Helene Dunbar

The descriptive bit: We Are Lost And Found by Helene Dunbar tells an important story that took place in the 80s. Michael is a young man who is just becoming comfortable with his sexuality, and he’s living in a time when he has to contemplate the fact that having sex might kill him. HIV/AIDS is spreading even though, at that time, there was nothing certain about transmission. To add to the uncertainty in Michael’s life, his brother Connor has been kicked out of the family home by their homophobic father. All that keeps Michael sane is his free-spirited friend, James, his bestie Becky and the mysterious boy he keeps meeting at his favorite club.

My thoughts bit: Oh this book. I absolutely loved it. Full transparency – I began volunteering at AIDS organizations in the early 90s and was running one five years later. This was my time frame. Dunbar really captured the fear and confusion that was rampant in the 80s and 90s. HIV/AIDS was such a huge thing hanging over a community of people who had once been very sexually free.

Michael is a great character. He’s complex and I really enjoyed being in his head for a while. His home life was heart-breaking with a homophobic father and a mother without the wherewithal to stand up for her sons. Michael finds his escape from uncertainty at The Echo – a dance club that has become his little island of safety.

Michael is often in the shadow of his friend James. James is artistic, mysterious and creative and he draws people to him. Becky, on the other hand,  is worried about everyone. While Becky and James have a bit of friction between them, Michael seems to be the glue that holds their friendship together.

Once Michael meets Gabriel things change. Gabriel only has eyes for Michael and for the first time in his life Michael is pushed out of his comfort zone. He has to figure out how to be the person he needs to be without being thrown out of his home. How does it feel when you see your first Pride parade? How do you make the decision to have sex in a time when there’s a deadly disease that no one knows how to prevent? How do you protect yourself from something you can’t see? What risk is worth it?

This is an important story. There are so many people who have forgotten what happened during the 80s and 90s. This is a story that has needed to be retold for the YA audience and I think that Dunbar has nailed it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the music references throughout this story. I want the soundtrack! I had to stop a couple of times while I was reading to head to Apple Music! The music was a great way to round out the feel of the time.

The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: Homophobic speech, homophobia, hate crime (homophobia results in physical assault), verbally abusive parent, mention of unprotected sex.

I received an ARC of We Are Lost And Found by Helene Dunbar from SOURCEBOOKS Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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