Review: The Gray by Chris Baron

The Gray by Chris Baron cover shows a boy's face in the foreground with flat gray smoke or clouds covering part of his face. A few houses and a river fill the background scene.

The Gray
Chris Baron
Feiwel & Friends
Published June 13, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Gray

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 Gray on Goodreads

My Review

I’m so excited to FINALLY get to read a book by Chris Baron. I’ve heard so many positive things, and I actually think I have his other books, but this is the first I’ve read.

From the beginning, I definitely felt pulled into Sasha’s story and his anxiety symptoms. Some members of his family are super supportive, and he has a friend who has his back. But he has other relationships that are really challenging.

I loved the descriptions of his aunt’s home and property and the surrounding area. It sounded so green and peaceful (except for the ghosts!) and I loved the relationships he formed with other kids.

For Sasha, his anxiety manifests in kind of a physical way– in which his vision goes gray and foggy. Those descriptions made what he experienced so tangible. I liked that it kind of threw a veil between him and what was happening around him and made it clear what happened as he surfaced from that space.

I also loved the connection between him and his uncle. Even though he’d passed away, his memories of his uncle and the stories he shared helped Sasha see himself in a new, more positive way. They helped him feel less alone, too. So cool.

All in all, this is definitely a book I’d recommend not only for kids with anxiety but for anyone who’s felt alone or gone through painful changes in friendships.

The Gray on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Sasha’s dad’s family immigrated to the US. Sasha and his family are Jewish. One minor character’s mom is in a relationship with another woman.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Rumors say that the ghost of a missing girl visits the empty buildings of what used to be a Jewish summer camp. Sasha learns about what his uncle refers to as “worlds within worlds”, something that refers to the unexpected connections that happen in life and to some of the ways he experiences anxiety and the world around him.

Sasha’s aunt shares a story of Rabbi Akiva, who learned about the power of water to carve a stone over a long period of time. She shares this story in part to remind Sasha that change takes time and patience, but it is possible, even when it seems not to be.

Violent Content
Some instances of bullying. More than once, a group of kids surround Sasha. One boy hits him.

Another boy tells Sasha about an encounter he had in which he saw evidence that someone had hurt a little kid. Sasha learns what really happened to a boy who is rumored to be violent.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

12 Responses to Review: The Gray by Chris Baron

  1. Valinora Troy says:

    The Magical Imperfect has been on my list for a long time, and it looks like I better add The Gray to it, Actually I love the whole concept, and it sounds a wonderful way to depict anxiety. Plus I am intrigued by the mention of a ghost! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. The book sounds interesting. I’ve read his other book and liked it. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one.

  3. This one sounds great and Chris Baron’s a new author for me. Even better!

  4. I remember enjoying two of his other books: All of Me and The Magical Imperfect. With anxiety being a common problem with teens I will be sure to read this one in the coming months. Thanks for featuring your review on MMGM this week.

  5. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf ????️‍???? says:

    This sounds like such a beautiful story, Kasey! I always love seeing books with anxiety representation, and the peaceful setting as well as Sasha’s connection to his uncle both sound really intriguing too. Thanks so much for the thoughtful review!

  6. Ms. Yingling says:

    Baron’s work certainly touches on a lot of SEL issues! Glad you finally were able to read one of his titles.