Let’s Get Lost is a book that I think is good, but not great, yet I really liked anyway. Confusing? Let me explain…
Let’s Get Lost is a novel that reads more like a set of five short stories. Leila is driving from Louisiana to Alaska, to see the Northern Lights. Along the way, she crosses paths with four other characters: Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia. The first four stories are told from the point of view of these characters; and then the fifth story is told from Leila’s.
I’ve really grown to like switching-POV books, especially if the switches are for a reason: in this case, we slowly get to know more about Leila through the eyes of others before we finally “meet” Leila according to Leila. The only down-side to switching POVs is that there’s less connection with any one character. I really liked Leila, but I never felt connected to her, and I’m not sure if that’s because of the switching POV, or if the character just didn’t quite gel with me. Ditto for the other characters: I liked them, I just didn’t love them. The one I liked the most was Bree, and in this story the connection between Leila and Bree felt much more real. In some of the other stories – especially Sonia’s – the connection between the POV character and Leila was lacking chemistry.
Plot summary, without spoilers: Hudson is instantly attracted to Leila, and he invites her out on an adventure for the one day she’s in town. It goes well for Leila, but not so well for Hudson. Actually I found this story a bit bothersome; we learn later that the resolution is a happy one, but you can make your own mind up about whether you think Leila did something seriously wrong! Story 2: Bree is an orphaned runaway that Leila picks up. Bree and Leila bond quickly, and the reckless Bree gets them into trouble… and jail. Story 3: Leila runs (literally) into a guy who’s just had a major heartbreak at prom. This story is plotted like an 80s teen movie – think Pretty in Pink or Say Anything – and the author gives a nod to this by mentioning 80s movies. The problem with this is that, just like 80s teen movies, the storyline is way too cliché and predictable. (Also, are we really mean to believe that teens today are watching 80s movies? Movies and TV have got a lot better since then; I’m convinced it’s only Gen X-ers who think fondly of 80s films.) Anyway, that story was a bit of a flop for me, but it was still an okay read. Then onto Sonia’s story… this one frustrated me most of all because IT DIDN’T MAKE SENSE! The plotting really fell down here. Leila has now crossed into Canada, and she meets Sonia in a rest stop. Sonia has fled a wedding because the first love of her life, Sam, died only seven months ago, and she’s feeling guilty about already having fallen in love with his friend Jeremiah, and isn’t ready to tell Sam’s family (who are parents of the bride). She and Leila cross back into the States, and then Jeremiah phones Sonia to tell her that the wedding rings are in the pocket of his jacket… which she has taken. The rest of the story is about the girls trying to get back across the border to return the rings, Sonia having lost her purse (and passport) at a rest stop. So this is where it gets flaky: anyone with any sense would tell Jeremiah what’s happened, have him drive to the border, and simply meet him there and hand the rings over. But the girls go to some ridiculous means to try to get over the border illegally, even though Leila offers to drive back over by herself. The other ridiculous part of this is, this isn’t the 1970s when driving over the Canadian/US border took all of 2 questions with one border question of “Where ya headed?” Now, customs are VERY suspicious of anyone heading back and forth across the border (hello car search!), especially if you’ve just picked up a complete stranger (hello possibility of not being allowed across, or being pulled into the office for some VERY intense questioning). Basically, these days you don’t cross the border unless you really need to, because it’s such a hassle. It makes no sense that Leila was even offering to drive Sonia back to her home in Washington State; if Sonia really was rude enough to bail on a wedding, she could have just slept off her bad mood and headed back the next day with another wedding guest. Or, ya know, sucked it up and gone to the wedding, because that’s what most of us would do! So this story fell REALLY flat for me, and made Leila look quite careless and stupid. Anyway, on to Story 5… this was mean to be the Big Climax to the book, and we do finally find out the real reason Leila’s heading to the Northern Lights, but to me it fell very flat as a climax. Leila then heads back home to Louisiana and there’s a story resolution that’s a bit cheesy but very likeable.
OK so, after all that complaining about characters, connections, and plots that fell flat… why did I still like this book so much? Well, I love a road trip book, and I love that we have a female character going on a road trip by herself. That’s pretty brave! It makes sense that she’d form bonds with people quickly, after the searing loneliness of driving alone (although I think the author should have gone into the latter a bit more; we’d have learned more about Leila), and it was enjoyable to see the effect that two strangers can have on each other if they spend some time together. And although I didn’t really love any of the characters (except for Bree – she’s great), I did like them all, and their stories made for an enjoyable read.
I think this is one of those books that boils down to expectations: if you expect a great book, you’ll be disappointed; if you expect a good book, you’ll be really pleased. I’d rate this three and a half stars out of five: it’s worth a read.