Don’t you just hate it when you finish a book that has garnered all kinds of pre-publicity love and glowing reviews and your final reaction is “meh.”
When that happens, my first response is not to blame the book, but rather, myself. What did I miss? Did I read it too fast? Too slowly? Was I not actually in the mood for an “insert genre here” type of book?
Of course, no reader loves everything all the time and sometimes, the book just doesn’t resonate with the person reading it. Such was my experience with Let’s Get Lost, the debut novel by Adi Alsaid.
I really expected to like this story. It had all the earmarks—a road trip, a diverse cast of characters with stories of their own, and a girl with a mysterious past and an old red car. Let’s Get Lost joins the long list of books that uses the road trip as a metaphor for growing up, leaving the past behind, and facing the future. All that, and a great cover, too.
The only thing that Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia have in common is that Leila is going to cruise into their lives and, at some point, shake them up, help them out, or in Elliot’s case, literally knock him down. On her way to Alaska to view the northern lights, Leila briefly interacts with each teen at a different point in her journey. She serves as the catalyst for their own individual conflicts, which in turn hint at Leila’s hidden pain and the real reason behind her trip.
I liked the multiple narratives and Leila’s interactions with each of these teens, which is told from a third person point of view. However, the action seemed rushed to accommodate these brief encounters and I felt Leila insinuated herself too easily into strangers’ lives—but other readers may find that charming. The whole book felt overly optimistic, with dramatic interludes resolved without weighty consequences or it seemed, any particular point.
Of the four teens Leila encounters, my favorite was Elliot. Their attempt to reunite him with his longtime crush after she has turned him down makes for an evening reminiscent of the classic teen romance films Elliot grew up watching. Here, the rushed pacing actually works as the pair stumbles from one place to another looking for the girl.
Overall though, I didn’t find the characters particularly memorable or unique and the settings were a little lackluster for a book so heavily invested in traveling. Despite the drama of a teen runaway, some shoplifting, auto theft and multiple brushes with the law, this is not a gritty book. There are instances of teen drinking, some make-out sessions, and a character called “Stoner Timmy” who’s able to bribe his way across the Canadian border with donuts. There were some leaps in logic that took me out of the story and while I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, I didn’t think it would be necessary for a realistic road trip novel.
*Spoilers to follow!*
The ending, especially, threw me, with Leila’s love interest suddenly showing up at her door, after spending two weeks searching for her in a Texas town that she mentioned only once. At this point, the two of them have been separated for about 2 ½ months and she was actually wishing he would show up at her campground in Alaska, which was what I expected. But no, so what took him so long? And what happened to the postcards she’d been sending him? And how the heck did he manage to find her—in Louisiana, no less—when he never had her phone number or even a last name?! I know I’m over thinking, but things like this drive me nuts.
For a contemporary romance with a realistic setting, Let’s Get Lost depends too much on the kindness of strangers and not enough on the characters’ own development. For me, the book wasn’t consistently funny enough to be a parody, and the serious issues were dealt with too quickly to feel substantial. That said, if you’re looking for a breezy armchair escape by way of a romantic road trip, give this book a try. Many others have, and recommended it highly. Fans of Jennifer Smith’s This is What Happy Looks Like or Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt may also enjoy this debut novel.