A Trick of the Light
Goodreads ratings
3.84 / 5

"A Trick of the Light" Summary

By Lois Metzger

young adult | 339 pages | Published in 2011

"Hearts are broken," Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. "Sweet relationships are dead."But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montréal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Québec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A teenage boy grapples with his eating disorder and the blurred line between reality and fantasy.


In Lois Metzger's captivating novel, "A Trick of the Light," readers are immersed in a thought-provoking exploration of mental illness, self-discovery, and the power of friendship. This young adult novel takes us on a journey through the mind of Mike Welles, a talented and ambitious high school student who begins to experience strange and unsettling thoughts. As we delve into Mike's world, we witness the impact of his mental health struggles on his relationships, aspirations, and ultimately, his sense of self. Through Metzger's poignant storytelling, readers are invited to reflect on the complexities of mental illness, the importance of empathy, and the potential for healing.

Brief Synopsis

Set in the bustling city of New York, "A Trick of the Light" introduces us to Mike Welles, a seventeen-year-old boy on the cusp of adulthood. Mike is a gifted artist with a bright future ahead of him. However, beneath his seemingly perfect exterior, he battles anxiety, depression, and a growing sense of detachment from the world around him. As his mental health deteriorates, Mike's once-promising future begins to slip away, leaving him feeling lost and alone.

Main Characters

Mike WellesThe protagonist of the story, Mike is a talented artist struggling with mental health issues.
TamioMike's best friend and confidant, Tamio provides unwavering support and understanding.
LisaA classmate and potential love interest, Lisa helps Mike confront his inner demons.
Dr. ZawikowskiMike's psychiatrist, Dr. Zawikowski plays a crucial role in his journey towards healing.

Summary of Story Points

Chapters 1-5: The Early Signs

  • Mike experiences the first signs of mental health issues, including intrusive thoughts and a growing sense of detachment.
  • He tries to hide his struggles from his friends and family, fearing judgment and rejection.
  • Mike begins therapy with Dr. Zawikowski, who encourages him to confront his fears and explore the root causes of his anxiety.

Chapters 6-10: Unraveling Relationships

  • Mike's mental health continues to worsen, impacting his relationships with his friends and loved ones.
  • His once-close bond with Tamio begins to strain as Mike withdraws emotionally.
  • Mike's artwork becomes increasingly dark and introspective, reflecting his internal turmoil.

Chapters 11-15: Seeking Connection

  • Mike meets Lisa, a classmate who shares his passion for art.
  • Lisa becomes a source of support and understanding, helping Mike feel less alone.
  • Together, they explore the power of art as a means of self-expression and healing.

Chapters 16-20: Confronting Demons

  • Mike's therapy sessions delve deeper into his past, revealing traumatic experiences that have shaped his mental health.
  • He begins to confront his inner demons and understand the origins of his anxiety and depression.
  • With the support of Dr. Zawikowski, Mike starts to develop strategies for managing his mental health.

Chapters 21-25: The Road to Recovery

  • Mike's journey towards recovery is filled with setbacks and triumphs.
  • He learns to lean on his support system, including Tamio, Lisa, and his family.
  • Through therapy, self-reflection, and the healing power of art, Mike begins to rebuild his life and regain a sense of purpose.

Main Events

  1. Mike's first therapy session with Dr. Zawikowski.
  2. Mike's growing detachment from his friends and loved ones.
  3. The introduction of Lisa and her impact on Mike's life.
  4. Mike's exploration of art as a means of self-expression and healing.
  5. The revelation of Mike's traumatic past and its influence on his mental health.
  6. Mike's journey towards recovery and rebuilding his life.

Themes and Insights

  • The stigma surrounding mental illness: The novel sheds light on the societal stigma associated with mental health issues and the fear of judgment that often prevents individuals from seeking help.
  • The power of empathy and support: Through the characters of Tamio and Lisa, the story highlights the transformative impact of empathy and understanding in helping individuals navigate their mental health challenges.
  • The healing power of art: Metzger explores the therapeutic benefits of art as a means of self-expression and healing, showcasing how creativity can serve as a powerful tool in the journey towards mental well-being.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Trick of the Light" offers readers a powerful and empathetic portrayal of the complexities of mental illness. Through Mike's journey, we are reminded of the importance of compassion, understanding, and support for individuals facing mental health challenges. This novel serves as a poignant reminder that healing is possible, and that no one should face their struggles alone.


Lois Metzger's "A Trick of the Light" is a captivating and thought-provoking exploration of mental health, self-discovery, and the power of human connection. Through Mike Welles' journey, readers are invited to examine their own perceptions of mental illness and consider the impact of empathy and support in the healing process. Metzger's powerful storytelling and well-drawn characters make this novel a compelling and insightful read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of mental health issues.

A Trick of the Light FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Trick of the Light'?

    The genre of 'A Trick of the Light' is young adult fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Trick of the Light'?

    The author of 'A Trick of the Light' is Lois Metzger.

  3. What is the main theme of 'A Trick of the Light'?

    The main theme of 'A Trick of the Light' is mental health and eating disorders.

  4. What is the story about?

    The story follows 15-year-old Mike Welles who is struggling with anorexia and his journey towards recovery.

  5. Is 'A Trick of the Light' a standalone novel or part of a series?

    'A Trick of the Light' is a standalone novel.

  6. Is 'A Trick of the Light' suitable for young adult readers?

    Yes, 'A Trick of the Light' is suitable for young adult readers.

  7. Are there any trigger warnings for 'A Trick of the Light'?

    Yes, 'A Trick of the Light' contains sensitive content related to eating disorders and mental health which may be triggering for some readers.

  8. What is the target audience of 'A Trick of the Light'?

    The target audience of 'A Trick of the Light' is primarily young adult readers.

  9. Is 'A Trick of the Light' based on a true story?

    No, 'A Trick of the Light' is a work of fiction and not based on a true story.

  10. Where can I purchase 'A Trick of the Light'?

    You can purchase 'A Trick of the Light' online through various book retailers or in physical bookstores.