The Trap

by Steven Arntson
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

You would think Henry and Helen would be two peas in a pod. After all, they are twins. But Helen is brave and fearless, while Henry must think everything through. Despite their clear differences, they, along with their best friends Carl and Nicki, are inseparable.

When Carl’s brother mysteriously disappears, the four friends go on a mission to figure out what happened. Their search leads them to a book called Subtle Travel and the Subtle Self, which explains how a person can leave their body in their sleep. As the four friends learn to travel, they quickly discover that their subtle self isn’t invulnerable when Henry’s subtle self gets trapped. His friends want to jump in and save him, but will that lead to more disaster?

Teens and preteens alike will enjoy The Trap because it is fast-paced and easy to read. This story contains a good mystery, a bit of the supernatural, as well as a bit of humor.

The Trap touches on racial issues of the 1960’s but doesn’t go into detail. The only negative part of this book is that Henry and Helen have no qualms about lying to their parents in order to solve the mystery.  There is also a section in the book where Helen reveals that she likes to break into people’s houses because it’s interesting to look around.

The Trap shows the importance of understanding people of different cultures. It has a sweet ending that will leave readers satisfied.

Sexual Content

  • Henry and Nicki go to a school dance in their subtle forms. As they dance, Henry “leaned forward and kissed her. A subtle kiss is a strange thing. It’s slippery, and a little electric, and it buzzes on your lips.”


  • Carl punches Henry. “Carl’s big knuckles had come at me, his pimply face looming behind them . . . My nose and cheek backed up—right into my brain, and my brain retreated down my throat into my stomach. My stomach hadn’t expected that, and become upset.” Henry pukes, and Henry’s sister jumps on Carl.
  • A character talks about the Jews being killed during World War II. “They were murdered . . . I returned once, years after the war, to see the graveyard where my parents and grandparents were buried. It is all weeds now. There are no Jews left to care for their own dead.”
  • One of the children talks about her great-grandfather who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad. “And in Iowa, he got attached by an Irish railroad gang. They mobbed him and some other Chinese workers, saying that Chinese people were stealing Irish jobs. They almost killed him, and he ended up in the hospital in Cedar Rapids.”
  • In a TV show, the Devil tells a rich man he can live forever if he murdered two other people. The rich man finds two “bums drunk.” The rich man did not think those men deserved to live as much as he did. So the rich man puts rat poison in a bottle of whiskey, “intending to give it to the hoboes. Then the show took a commercial break.”
  • Henry’s dad talks about when he was in the war. When they heard shots, everyone ran, but one man got shot. “Lying out there on his back, in the street. And making a sound, like gargling . . . because they shot him . . . in the throat . . . The North Koreans . . . they went up to Davis. And I watched . . . as they. ..They stripped him. They took his gun, his belt. Jacket. Helmet. Boots. Right off him, while he was still trying to breathe. They took everything. And they left him there, naked in the street. He died there.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Carl’s father is disliked because he is a drunk. The father appears several times in the story and is seen drinking beer on multiple occasions.


  • One of the adults complains about, “this damn back of mine.”


  • Henry finds a book that teaches him how a person, “could step right out of their body while their body was sleeping. You’d be yourself, but invisible. This was called ‘subtle travel.’ The part of you that did the walking, your second body, was called ‘the subtle form.’”
  • A ghost appears and helps Henry solve the mystery of what happened to Carl.
  • When Carl was in his subtle form, someone did something to his physical body. Carl isn’t sure if his body is alive or dead, and he is afraid if he goes back into his body he will die.

Spiritual Content

  • None


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