The Gray is a sensitively told middle grade story from Chris Baron about living with anxiety and finding ways to cope.
It’s been a tough year for Sasha—he’s been bullied at his middle school and his anxiety, which he calls the Gray, is growing. Sasha’s dad tells him to “toughen up”—and he does, but with unfortunate, hurtful results. His parents and therapist agree that a summer in the country with his aunt might be the best medicine, but it’s the last place he wants to be. He'll be away from his best friend, video games, and stuck in the house that reminds him of his beloved uncle who died two years earlier.
His aunt is supportive, and there are lots of places to explore, and even some potential new friends. When Sasha is introduced at a local ranch to a horse coincidentally--incredibly--nicknamed the Gray, he feels he's found a kindred spirit.
But his own Gray is ever-present. When one of his new friends disappears, Sasha discovers that the country is wilder and more mysterious than he imagined. He tries to muster enough courage to help in the search . . . but will the Gray hold him back?
"The central idea—that, since water can slowly change a rock, any person on Earth can also change, a concept connected to Uncle Lou’s beloved story from the Talmud about Akiva and the Stone—is one of enormous importance. Baron also gets props for his sympathetic and evenhanded depiction of anxiety and the many different ways to treat it, from in-the-minute breathing exercises to appropriate medication." —Kirkus Reviews
"A moving exploration of friendship, the travails of adolescence, and the possibilities of navigating difficulties with grace and strength." —Ben Guterson, author of Indie Next Pick, Winterhouse
"A standout! I've never read a middle grade novel that captures anxiety in such a descriptive, thoughtful, and comprehensive way, giving words to how it transforms the mind, body, and soul. What I find extra special and important is how Baron created a story that embraces anxiety as a part of many people's lives. Page after page, he helps to destigmatize and normalize this mental health issue, showing how it can be managed in a healthy way. ... It's beautiful, joyful, and fosters acceptance." —Liza Weimer, author of Sydney Taylor Notable Book, The Assignment
"Adeptly portraying how debilitating and lonely anxiety can be, Baron sends main character Sasha on a journey he initially feels will be impossible to bear—a summer with his aunt in a small town with no wifi, no friends and still-raw memories of the beloved uncle he recently lost. Unfortunately, something his aunt’s town does have in common with his home in New York City is bullies. Luckily for Sasha, it also has allies—some unexpected, some four-legged and fond of sugar cubes. ... Baron writes not just about bullying but about how it feels to be bullied in a way that can only come from lived experience. Guilt, grief and faith intertwine in The Gray, giving Sasha—and readers—a restorative summer they’ll never forget." —Karol Ruth Silverstein, Author of Cursed, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award
"A tender and loving portrayal of growing up with, and trying to grow through, anxiety. Baron's writing is beautiful and lyrical and infused with a great deal of compassion for all of his characters, especially those for whom compassion is hard won." —Alyssa Wishingrad, author of The Verdigris Pawn
"The Gray bravely addresses the mental health topic of generalized anxiety and panic attacks, along with bullying, screen time, and video games. Importantly, it showcases the power of kindness, acceptance, and that change can be a gradual process." —Ben Gartner, author of One Giant Leap
"A magical moving story about anxiety, fear, change, and friendship. But more than anything else it's a story that reminds us that if we are brave enough to ask for help when we need it, the world will show us that help can come in so many wonderful secret magical ways. A must read for any kid who finds themselves just a little out of place." —Ally Malinenko, author of This Appearing House
"Filled with relatable, poignant descriptions of anxiety and panic symptoms, THE GRAY is a remarkable addition to middle grade mental health book collections.”--Sofiya Pasternak, author of ANYA AND THE DRAGON, a Sydney Taylor Book Award Honor title