When Dave Pelzer was a young boy, his mother was shockingly abusive to him. She refused to feed him, forced him to sleep on a cot in the garage, beat him, burned his arm on the stove, locked him in the bathroom with a bucket of bleach and ammonia, and once even stabbed him—by "accident," she claimed—and refused to take him to the hospital. The abuse is chronicled in Pelzer's first memoir, A Child Called "It," which quickly became a national bestseller. The Lost Boy picks up where A Child Called "It" left off, chronicling David's escape from his mother and his entry into foster care.
The Lost Boy begins in winter of 1970. David is living with his mother, father, and brothers in Daly City, California. One night, in a crazed, drunken rage, David's mother opens the front door and tells him that, if he doesn't like the way she treats him, then he can leave. It's his choice. David hesitates, trained by years of abuse to suspect this is a trap—but when he walks out the front door, she doesn't stop him. He's free. His plan is to live near the Russian River in Guerneville, California, where "The Family" used to spend their summer vacations. Unfortunately, David doesn't know how to get there, nor does he realize that it's an eighty mile walk from Daly City to Guerneville. He gets picked up by the police, who call his parents. His father comes to take him back to "The House," as Dave calls it.
David endures three more years of hell at home before teachers at his school finally intervene. Over the years, the teachers had become increasingly concerned about David's home life, noticing that he frequently came to school in rags, bearing unexplainable bruises on his arms. His troubles at school were not initially attributed to the child abuse and are well chronicled in A Child Called "It." In The Lost Boy, his teachers come together to report the abuse. A police officer pulls David out of school, taking him to a hospital, where doctors document the physical signs of abuse and treat the chemical burns on his arms. The policeman then takes David to live with Aunt Mary, his first foster mother.
David doesn't understand what's happening. He's afraid that his mother will find him and abuse him again. His nightmares all involve his mother screaming that she'll never let him go. Her unexpected visit to Aunt Mary's frightens him half to death. His social worker, the angelic Ms. Gold, helps him work through some of his fear. She explains to him about the upcoming trial, in which a judge will decide whether David will return to his mother or become a ward of the state. In order for the judge to rule in his favor, David must tell the ugly truth about the abuse. This is difficult for him, because the psychological effects of the abuse have shamed him into believing that he deserved it and that he shouldn't have revealed the "family secret."
During the trial, David is stressed out and confused, but in the end the judge rules that David will be a ward of the state of California until he turns 18. His mother suspected that this would happen, and when the trial ends she hugs David and gives him a pile of new toys and clothes. He takes these new possessions with him to his next foster home, where he lives with Lilian and Rudy Catanze and their other foster children, including Larry Junior and Big Larry. David likes living with the Catanzes and enjoys a great deal of freedom, including the ability to ride around...
(The entire section is 1434 words.)