A boy walked along the railroad tracks.
A boy walked along the old railroad tracks. The one with a steep rocky incline that some people use to rock climb.
I don’t know why he took a walk that night. Maybe he does every night. Maybe he knew school started the next day, and he’d be buried under homework and sports. Maybe he was meeting a friend. Maybe he scrounged up a few dollars for a soda since there was none in the fridge.
For whatever reason, he left the safety of his home, his parents, his twin brother, and took that walk, breathing in the scent of fall winging on the breeze.
The first day of school comes. Friends from a tight knit group arrive, clutching their backpacks. It’s their sophomore year. They’ve grown up together, year after year. They played soccer, basketball, and baseball together. They watched the fireworks together. They swam together over the summer. They know the good, the bad, and the goofy. They remember the bad haircuts and the ugly clothes.
One girl settles in her seat in homeroom. She has a bad feeling. Two friends, twin brothers, aren’t in school. The one brother said something weird on Facebook that morning. The night before, one of them had been late returning home from a walk. The parents had called the police. That’s the last she knew of it.
The intercom crackles. And over the intercom, the friends learn that one of their own died the night before.
On the first day of school.
Yet these kids, barely 15, have to continue going to school day after day. They have to sit through math, listen to history lectures, go to ballet, attend church on Sundays. The world didn’t stop for their grief, their confusion, their numbness, their loss. They just know their friend isn’t there beside them anymore.
Parents forget about issues like too much texting, leaving boyfriends and girlfriends alone, or whether their kid made varsity or not. Now their kids are dealing with issues that no child should have to deal with. Now they worry when the haunting look will fade from their child’s face. Now they wonder how they can possibly support and be there for their child. Now they wonder when the emotional break downs will stop and their child will smile again. When will they smile again.
Books don’t replace counseling. Books don’t replace the hug of a parent or a friend. Books can’t mend a broken heart. But for a brief moment, a hurting child or adult, can find understanding, a friend, a place where they belong and can forget about their grief.
They can find words to their emotions and not feel so alone. And that might help them get through another day.
So yes, it’s okay for middle grade and young adult books to cover the tough issues. Because there are kids out there dealing with the tough issues.