NYL Foundation releases new graphic novel about a boy navigating grief.

New York Life | July 24, 2023

Lost in the Middle book cover

Our protagonist, Kai, is back, he’s in middle school now, and still dealing with the death of his dad because grief never goes away. The graphic novel, Lost in the Middle, was recently released by the New York Life Foundation, and explores the grief journey of Kai and his classmates.

Lost in the Middle is the fourth book – and first graphic novel – in the Kai’s Journey original series, which we launched in 2020 to help children and families process their grief. The 200-page novel was developed with insights from Donna A. Gaffney, an expert in the bereavement field, and is illustrated by award-winning illustrator Genie Espinosa. It delivers a powerful message around collective healing, built chapter by chapter as characters navigate individual challenges but ultimately come together as a community to grow.

“Grief is a life-long journey that is unique to each individual,” says Maria Collins, Vice President of the New York Life Foundation. “Middle school is a big transition as young people are becoming more independent, testing limits and exploring new opportunities. Therefore, creating this modern, age appropriate and relatable new instalment in the Kai’s Journey series is an essential part of our strategy to raise awareness of grief support for children at all stages of development.” 


About the book

Readers follow Kai, now an 8th grader, as he and his best friend, Elle, record TikTok-like videos to help Kai’s cousin Cam and the rest of the school’s 6th graders deal with their problems. Their posts start with the easy stuff, like how to open a jammed locker, but quickly get to the harder stuff, like how to communicate to a friend about grief. In the end, the schoolchildren come together, understanding the power of a collective approach to healing to cope with loss.

Each of the main characters in the book highlights a different type of loss. For example, Elle’s sister Simone died, Cam, who is new to the school, misses his old friends; Jaxon, who acts out at school, is dealing with trouble at home; and Alex a basketball star, is experiencing painful memories associated with the death of her brother.

Throughout the book are seven QR codes that the reader can scan to be taken to a YouTube video in which a character from the story speaks to them about their experience and offers tips on how to cope with death and loss. In addition to the book, the Foundation developed family and educator discussion guides to help facilitate conversations with middle schoolers about the book’s message and themes.

You can download and read Lost in the Middle here. The e-book is available in English and Spanish. Physical copies and resources to distribute and promote the book will be available to the New York Life Foundation’s partner organizations, employees, and agents.


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Media contact

Lacey Siegel
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937