Indie Review: We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar
We Are Lost and Found follows Michael, a junior in high school, in 1983. He is navigating his life as a “yet-to-come-out” gay teen in New York City amidst the AIDS crisis. Michael is terrified to come out to his parents because his older brother, Connor, was disowned by their father for coming out. Michael is desperately trying to figure out who he is as a person and where he belongs along with his friends who are going through their own struggles. It’s not until he meets Gabriel is when everything comes head on – love, AIDS, family, fear, safety.
Helen Dunbar did a wonderful job of telling a story that I think a lot of the LGBTQ community in the 80s and 90s lived through and can relate to. Dunbar showed how one wanted to live the life they wanted, but always have a cloud of fear over them. Michael wanted to be able to freely discover himself in the LGBTQ world, but was scared of the danger and possibility of contracting a deadly virus. In We Are Lost and Found, she showcased how taboo it was to talk about people dying from AIDS. It wasn’t always spoken of, even to your closest friends if you knew someone who died from AIDS.
“At that moment, a gun would cause less panic in New York City than a gay boy bleeding.”
Dunbar has a great style of writing. Each paragraph flowed effortlessly. When the characters spoke, she didn’t use quotations, so it was almost like a stream of consciousness. In a way, it felt like a journal; made it feel more intimate. There were many intimate moments in We Are Lost and Found – being sexual, confiding in people, or just being your free true self for a moment. The great thing about this book is you don’t have to identify as LGBQT to relate to Michael and the other characters. A lot of the story revolves around Michael and his wanting of love and acceptance from his parents, but he knows he’ll never fully get that from them.
“She lives in a strange kind of world where Conner is straight…anything instead of what he is, a gay shop clerk with more friends than she’ll ever have, a taste of free will.”
He also wants to find someone to love and love him back. He experiences many firsts and the anxiety and all the questions that go along with those choices. We never know if we are doing the right thing in the moment, and Michael shows that. Everyone has dealt with uncertainty of some kind in their lives. Dunbar does a great job of showing the facts about AIDS at this time. Giving out numbers of how many cases, deaths, and so on about it. She also has two afterwards in the book discussing New York City and the AIDS crisis. This part of the United States’ history doesn’t get spoken of much anymore.. AIDS has not vanished. People are still being affected by it today. We Are Lost and Found can be a really important book to help keep that history alive for us.
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Article originally Published in the February / March 2021 Issue: Young Adult.