Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.
Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.
With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.
This book was an emotional rollercoaster in the best way. I love books where our main character really faces challenges that lead to character growth that feels natural and realistic. This book had adventure, friendship, family, and a dash of romance, so it is perfect for fans of many different genres.
One thing I really loved about this book was how introspective Mari was. We get some character development right from the beginning with her feelings toward social media, something that a lot of people can relate to these days. On top of that, she is navigating so many emotions with the loss of her cousin: sadness, guilt, hopelessness. We go on a journey, both physically and emotionally, with Mari and she confronts these feelings that really makes the reader/character relationship strong. I loved being inside her head for much of the book, noticing little events that had a huge impact on her character and growth as she learns to live life for herself and to find her strength and value.
I also loved the friendship dynamic here. The group of people Mari meets up with is funny, dynamic, and unique. The author develops these characters really well, and I am glad that the isolated setting allowed for this without making it too confusing as a reader. Each character has his/her own personality and plays a different role in Mari’s life.I enjoyed the fact that there was friendship here before romance. I think it would have been doing Mari’s character line a disservice to jump right into a head-over-heels relationship. This group really pushes Mari in ways she hasn’t been pushed before, but they are also extremely loyal, despite having known each other for only a few days.
The romance in this book is very minimal and is not the main point of the book. I find that with a lot of YA books our main character is supposed to be on a path of self-discovery, but this usually falls down under the romantic plot. The Other Side of Lost actually maintains solid character development and uses the romance as a very small subplot. I wasn’t expecting this but I am so happy that the author did it this way.
There was really only one thing I didn’t love in this book, which is why it’s at a 4/5 stars for me. Why couldn’t Mari contact her mom?! She leaves a note saying she will be gone for a day or two, then decides to do the full hike. Along the way she sends one or two texts to her mom telling her not to worry, but that’s it. I understand that she needed to deal with some personal issues and to not have any outside pressures or guilt, but seriously. If I were her mom I would be panicking like crazy. I think the (living) family portion of Mari’s whole conflict in the book was too underdeveloped, so it was just swept under the rig via obscure texts from Mari to her mom.
Despite that issue, I really loved this book. It made me want to break away from my social media and appreciate nature more (although I’m here right now, so how did that work out for me?). This was an honest story about facing grief and growing into your own person that is extremely character-driven. I would definitely recommend reading this!