After the sudden death of his mother, young Ted is taken to summer camp by his father. Ted begins his summer with a sense of dread – he is afraid that his father doesn’t want him back home. But among the other boys in Cabin 7 at White Birch Camp, Ted finds friendship and first love with a diverse group that will start him on the path to healing.
Egged on by Hoss, the boys from Cabin 7 decide to take an illicit canoe trip across the lake, a trip that turns deadly and has a profound effect on all the boys.
Theme of the Book
The Light in the Trees is a story of growth through friendship, sharing, danger, and fear. Each of the characters plays a part in the personal growth, and growing up, of the main character, Ted. It is a masterful portrayal of the joys, fears, and sorrows of young boys.
What I Liked About the Story
At first glance, this seems to be a simple coming-of-age story about a group of boys thrown together in Cabin 7 at White Birch Camp. The boys at the center of the story do grow and change as the summer progresses. We feel the results of their close friendship in Ted’s maturing, in Zeke’s growing confidence and courage, and even in Hoss’ sharing of the secrets of his life. There is the element of young love in the relationship between Ted and Karen, the daughter of the camp director. But the story is much more than a simple tale of young boys at camp.
The descriptions of White Birch have painted a complete picture of an idyllic summer experience for young boys. The lake, the cabins, the playing fields, the mystery of Mosquito Point, and the seemingly unreachable ‘other side’ of the lake are the perfect setting for a story that combines the elements of growth, friendship, tension, and fear. While the camp itself is familiar and comfortable for the boys, it has its elements of mystery: the legend of the Loon Lake sloth, the forbidden territory of Mosquito Point, and especially the unknown territory of the far side of the lake.
It is the light that appears on the far side of the lake that first provides comfort for Ted, a boy who has just lost his mother and fears to lose his father. To Ted, the light is a sign that his mother is watching over him, providing comfort and advice. To the other boys, the light is the symbol of the unknown and the goal they need to reach to make their summer complete.
The boys themselves are a study in adolescent psychology. There is Buck, the boy who insists on nicknames and who sees himself as the leader. Buck is a budding politician. Hoss, who at first seems like a mouthy troublemaker, has secrets of his own and the reader is never sure if he will become a career criminal or will use his abilities in other ways. Neil, the thinker, and Zeke, an all-round nice boy, provide a touch of normalcy, especially when compared with Bud, with his quiet but scary behavior. These boys feed off one another to plan and carry out their last adventure, an adventure that will lead to unexpected and fatal consequences.
Even the adult characters are wonderfully done. Some are more peripheral to the story, but others like Cliff and Lloyd, the camp counselors, are the catalysts for some of the best plot elements.
The author is expert at building tension throughout the story. Each episode builds on the previous one to create a story arc that leads the reader in unexpected directions and forces the reader to keep turning the pages.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
I am usually a very critical reader. However, in this case, I can’t think of a thing I didn’t like about the book, except, perhaps, that it kept me from doing all of the other things I needed to do.
The Light in the Trees is a wonderful book. I loved every minute of it and, once started, I couldn’t put it down. The story itself, the setting, and especially the characters make this a book that should not be missed. It can be enjoyed by adults and by older teenage readers.
The Light in the Trees has been awarded the One Stop Fiction Book Award for recommended reading and as a book of excellence.