Book Review: The Door in the Lake by Nancy Butts

I picked up this book when it caught my eye at a second-hand book store. It’s about a twelve-year-old (Joey) who vanishes during a camping trip. He re-appears two years later, only he’s still twelve and wearing the same thing he was wearing when he disappeared. The rest of the world has grown, and he has stayed the same. He’s also got a weird object lodged in his brain, and his nose keeps leaking brain fluid. His memories suggest that he was abducted by aliens.

I chose this book because I always enjoy seeing how authors treat extraordinary stories that take place within reality. In this case, very few people believe Joey. I usually read these books expecting the ending to return us to the realm of the “real world,” revealing that it was all just a dream, or there is a rational explanation, etc. Think the ending of every Scooby Doo episode.

I’m always thrilled when by the end of the book, it’s still a real ghost, or a real alien, or someone has transcended the laws of reality. This book did not disappoint, though I will not reveal the ending.

It seems like it’s written for 10-12-year old male readers. The book is plot-driven, and at times I wished to know more about the emotions and motivations of the characters. For instance, Joey returns home to find his parents preoccupied with a new baby and their jobs. It seems after being missing for two years, he would find them more focused on him. But he’s off to school in no time, and he’s even punished for leaving the house without permission by being grounded to his room. I would think there would be much more action on the part of his parents and authorities after being missing (and suffering amnesia and other medical problems) for such a time. I realize that in middle-grade and young adult books, parental figures are supposed to be largely absent, but I felt their absence was not fully justified.

Still, I could see a younger reader devouring the book and projecting his or her own emotions on top of the characters. It was a quick read. At 160 pages, I read it in three quick sittings—and if I had more long blocks of time available, it would have been a one-sitting book.