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Major Works Data Sheet: Lost Boys
by Marc Helke

Title: Lost Boys

Author: Orson Scott Card

Date Of Publication: 1992

Genre: Thriller

Historical Information About The Period Of Publication: In 1992, the most notable event that may have influenced the plot of this book is serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's pleading guilty but insane for the murder of fifteen boys and young men. This draws a parallel to the disappearances and murders that occur in Lost Boys.

Biographical Information About The Author: Orson Scott Card was born in Richland, Washington, in August 1951. He moved to Greensboro, North Carolina in 1983, where he currently lives. Card is the author of the well-known Ender series. He is a member of the Mormon faith, and frequently incorporates the religion into his novels, including Lost Boys. He primarily writes science-fiction and fantasy books, but has recently branched out into thrillers like Lost Boys, Treasure Box, and Enchantment. Card is married with five children, one of which is a video game programmer, which parallels Step Fletcher in Lost Boys. One of Card's children (now deceased) had cerebral palsy, which also shows up in Lost Boys. It is clear that Card uses his own experiences and events from his life and incorporates them in his writing.

Characteristics Of The Genre: Thrillers are characterized by a quickly paced plot, with many cliffhangers and suspense. There is commonly one main enemy, with many red herrings to throw the protagonist off. Sometimes, like in the case of Lost Boys, the protagonist is drawn into conflict by accident.

Plot Summary: Step Fletcher and his family have recently moved to Steuben, North Carolina. They have very little money, and Step is beginning work at Eight Bits, Inc., a video game processing company. Step had created a critically acclaimed, famous game, Hacker Snack, but somehow his family has lost all the money from it. Meanwhile, Step's wife, DeAnne, is pregnant with a fourth child. They have three children already: Stevie, 8; Robbie, 6; and Elizabeth, 2. Their new life is hard for them at first; Step has to deal with a shady boss (Ray Keene), an obnoxious supervisor (Dicky Northanger), and a pedophile coworker (Gallowglass). Step is at the company merely to write manuals for products created by the company, but he eventually finds out that he is to be assisting in writing code for the programs behind his supervisor's back. He also discovers that they are producing a version of his game behind his back, which is also illegal. Stevie, on the other hand, transfers to a new school, and has trouble fitting in. He cannot understand the Southern accents of his peers, and they all pick on him. Even Stevie's teacher, Mrs. Jones, makes fun of him. DeAnne perhaps faces the most pressure of all: she has to deal with caring for all of her children without much help from her husband, due to the abnormal hours of his work. They begin to adjust, however and things start to fall into place. Their landlord's father Baptize Waters (Bappy, for short) is a kind, old man and frequently visits to help them maintain the house. The Fletchers are Mormons and are quickly accepted into the Steuben First Ward. The Fletchers quickly rise in status in the church body due to their high level of activity in the church, but problems begin to arise again. Step goes to discuss Stevie with his teacher, and records it all on tape. The teacher begins to think he is stalking her and quits. The psychotic Sister LeSueur, from the church, haunts their family with her "visions sent by God". She tries to make Stevie rebel against his parents. Step also has to deal with an insane young man, Lee Weeks, who believes that he is God. All the while Stevie has been playing with imaginary friends, each of whom possesses the same name as one of seven children who has disappeared from Steuben. DeAnne has been taking Stevie to a psychiatrist, Lee Weeks' mother, but the sessions fail to produce anything. One weekend, Step and the rest of the Eight Bits, Inc. visit a computer convention in San Francisco, California. It is there that Step meets Dan Arkasian, owner of Agamemnon, Inc., another software distributor. Arkasian offers Step a contract to work for Agamemnon, with the pay being much better than that offered by Eight Bits, Inc. Step does not take the contract but brings it home with him in case he decides to quit at Eight Bits. He arrives home and the next week, somebody sends them an anonymous package, with a tape inside. The tape contains the song "Every Breath You Take," by The Police, and sends the Fletchers the clear message that someone is watching them. A serial killer has been identified in the newspaper as the cause of the disappearances of the boys in Steuben, and the Fletchers believe that this killer is after Stevie. They call Doug Douglas and tell him about Stevie's imaginary friends and how they believe that these friends are connected to the lost boys. Douglas visits them, affirming that the tape was not sent to them by the serial killer and urges them to keep their children inside the house unless supervised outside. DeAnne has her baby, and they learn that the baby, named Jeremy, has cerebral palsy. Christmas arrives, and Stevie is still playing with his imaginary friends. On Christmas night, he asks his parents if his friends can come in. They go to the door, and standing there are the seven lost boys. Step and DeAnne let them in, and the boys spend Christmas with them. Stevie reveals that he discovered that Bappy is the one who has been kidnapping and killing the boys, and that when Stevie attempted to tell him to stop, Bappy killed Stevie. The boys in the house and Stevie are not in fact boys, but ghosts of the boys. The bodies of the boys are buried under the house. Step calls Doug Douglas, who arrests Bappy and allows the parents of the lost boys to see their children once more. Stevie is gone, and so the Fletchers move out of their house, going to live in a condo. They all begin life anew in Steuben.

Describe The Author's Style: Card writes in a simple, modern style, using contemporary English and parallels to modern America. He does not use a specific dialect, but rather just modern English. Card does an excellent job of describing objects and people in the book and uses the dialogue to bring out the chief personality traits in each character.

Examples That Demonstrate Style: p. 168 "Oh, I know," said Step. "The real answer is to keep our children away from her and then teach people the truth every chance we get. That's the thing we have going for us--she really is wrong and we really are right, and so good and wise people will eventually see through her and recognize what she really is." -Step's comment to DeAnne about what to do concerning Sister LeSeuer shows that Step is very perceptive and has a good sense of right and wrong.

p. 380 "DeAnne had recovered enough to go home, but she didn't want to. "I've never left the hospital without my baby," she said." -DeAnne's comment about wanting to take her baby home with her shows that she is a loving mother and is determined to do the best for her children.

Memorable Quotes: p. 362 "What, you mean you guys are secretly developing nuclear weapons for the PLO or something? And I don't have a new boss. I'm going back to freelancing. I have a contract for Hacker Snack, I told you that." -Step is adamant in his decision to quit Eight Bits, Inc. His remark to Dicky shows just how hostile Eight Bits has been towards him while he worked there.

p. 216 "How can I put this, Brother Fletcher? Let's just say that he was first contacted by Brother and Sister LeSueur, and he took all the lessons in their home." -Brother Freebody's comment to Step about Lee Week's strangeness shows how it isn't just Step and DeAnne who think low of the LeSueurs.



Role In Story



Step Fletcher Protagonist Orchestrates the move to Steuben, basically every decision the Fletcher family makes goes through him. Clear-headed, sarcastic, loving.
DeAnne Fletcher Step's wife Cares for the Fletcher children, is the most observant of Stevie's imaginary friends. Loving, acute, faithful, worrisome, insectophobic.
Stevie Fletcher Step and DeAnne's son, the oldest of the Fletcher children. Is the focus of the conflict, can see the lost boys, is killed by Bappy. Impartial, quiet, genius.
Robbie Fletcher The second oldest Fletcher child. Sees the lost boys once, loses his ball in the storm drain. Boisterous, playful.
Elizabeth Fletcher The only girl in the Fletcher family, is the youngest until the birth of Jeremy. Target of Gallowglass's pedophilia, no other real significance. Silly, young.
Jeremy Fletcher Youngest Fletcher No real significance, enters the story towards the end when he is born. Baby, newborn.
Baptize Waters Landlord's father, serial killer. Cares for the Fletchers' house, is the killer of the seven lost boys. Secretive, mysterious, dual personalities.
Sister LeSueur "Prophet" of God in the Steuben First Ward. Serves as an annoyance to the Fletchers. If things don't go her way, they don't go at all. Vain, falsely righteous.
Ray Keene Step's boss. Reclusive boss of Eight Bits, Inc. Manages Reclusive, conniving.
Dicky Northanger Step's supervisor. Manages the division of Eight Bits, Inc. where Step works. Is a terrible programmer, so Step has to make the programs run right behind his back. Obnoxious, demanding, controlling.
Roland McIntyre (Gallowglass) Step's first friend at Eight Bits, Inc. Is a pedophile, targets Elizabeth at the company picnic. Pedophile, sick and twisted, naïve.
Dr. Mariner Principal of Stevie's new school. Oversees Stevie's school, asks Mrs. Jones to leave after Step confronts her. Observant, fair.
Mrs. Jones Stevie's new teacher. Drives Stevie to play with imaginary friends by making fun of how smart he is and how he cannot understand the Southern accent. Flustered, paranoid, bullying.
The Lost Boys Seven boys who were killed by Baptize Waters. Can be sensed by Stevie, they become his only friends in Steuben. Stevie later joins them. Friendly, lost, wraiths.
Lee Weeks Son of Mrs. Weeks, new to the Mormon Church. Believes himself to be God, plagues the Fletchers with annoyances. Megalomaniac.
Mrs. Weeks Lee Weeks' mother, Stevie's psychiatrist. Biased, anti-secular.

Setting: Lost Boys is set in Steuben, North Carolina. Steuben parallels Greensboro almost perfectly: there are few sidewalks, huge storm drains, and the majority of the city is suburban. The area that most of the action takes place in is the Fletcher's house. The setting serves to localize the action and assist the reader in relating to the setting, if they live in a suburban area.

Significance Of Opening Scene: The opening scene introduces us to all of the Fletcher family and sets up the premise of their reasons for moving to Steuben, North Carolina. Their conversation with the highway patrolman also foreshadows that their life in Steuben isn't going to go as smoothly as they'd like it to.

Significance Of Closing Scene: In the closing scene, the Fletchers move out of their house and go to live in a condo. The mourning of Stevie's death has ended, and it is made clear that for once in the book, the Fletcher's life is beginning to look up. They will still commemorate Stevie in the future, and everything is going to be all right.

Symbols: Robbie losing his ball in the storm drain: Symbolizes how the entire Fletcher family becomes drawn into Stevie's playing with imaginary friends.

Insects invading the house periodically: Symbolizes how just when the Fletchers experience something good in their life, they are plagued once again by a new threat.

Jeremy's cerebral palsy: Symbolizes how almost every aspect of their new life in Steuben has crippled the Fletcher family.

Possible Themes/Topics Of Discussion: How far is too far, as pertaining to a parent and their children?

How large of a role should religion play in a child's life?

How should children be treated at school and how much should their treatment by others be monitored?

How much should the government actually monitor the lives of ordinary people?

[Copyright © Marc Helke, 2009. Reprinted with permission.]

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