by Sarah Beth Durst
Original Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Obtained Via: Bought
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
#1 in series
View at the Traffic light:
It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she’s going to have to figure out just what she’s missing–and what she’s running from–before she can leave. So now Lauren’s on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll be found…
Against the backdrop of this desolate and mystical town, Sarah Beth Durst writes an arresting, fantastical novel of one woman’s impossible journey…and her quest to find her fate.
I was super intrigued by the premise of The Lost. A town in the desert where lost things end up? Not the type of place I’d like to go on vacation, but it sounded like a great idea for a story, especially when you add up the fact that lost people(people lost either literally or metaphorically) end up in the town too, and they have to learn how to live in this new place. While I wasn’t quite completely sold on The Lost in the end, it was a pretty good read for most of the book.
I felt myself drawn to Lauren, the main character, right away. The book begins with her running(well, driving) away from her problems. Her mom’s cancer might have come back, and Lauren isn’t equipped to deal with that. Whenever a fictional character has a parent with cancer, I always feel an immediate kinship with them, and Lauren was no different. I thought The Lost really captured that as well as how Lauren was “lost” in other parts of her life. In her late twenties, Lauren feels a bit aimless while being grounded in her life at the same time, and I think The Lost portrayed that well.
As The Lost continued, I began to like Lauren more and more, which is good, because this is the kind of book where you have to at least be interested in the main character to enjoy it. The reason for that is there’s a good part of this book that’s just Lauren with very few other characters around. Over the course of the novel, Lauren interacts with few people. She finds herself in Lost, and then she realizes the “Missing Man” doesn’t like her. The “Missing Man” is the only one who can help the residents of Lost find their way out, so the townspeople will do anything to stay on his good side–including hunting Lauren down and potentially harming her.
As Lauren has to navigate this world, she finds herself allied with a little girl, Claire, and Peter, the one who finds the people of Lost to begin with. It’s a strange and mystical sort of story. Lauren finds herself drawn to Peter, and she also finds herself intrigued by the Void, which threatens to get people lost–for good. On top of all this, she has to scavenge for things she needs like food and clothing, and stay out of the way of the townspeople.
Even when Lost is dangerous, there’s a very sort of magical and charming quality to it.
Part of the middle of The Lost could feel repetitive, but it never does, because it’s highly centered on Lauren’s emotional journey. This part was the highlight of the book for me. I’d say during the middle of the book, I would have wanted to rate this book four, maybe five stars. It’s a great adventure both literally and emotionally–it brings up the same sort of adventurous stirrings that I’ve always found children’s fantasy books likely to do. It also has Lauren coming into a good deal of self-realization and learning to deal with things.
But then a plot point happens, and I became a raging reader. Without spoiling anything, The Lost takes a different turn and suddenly the book just. . . has a major tonal shift, which gave me reader whiplash. Nevertheless, I went along with it, hoping it would be redeemed along the way. And you know what? It was getting there! It felt like Lauren’s emotional arc was coming to the point the entire book had been building up to, and it was a really well-done emotional payoff, the kind that is very satisfying as a reader. I felt so proud of Lauren. I was ready to overlook the plot point that made me side-eye it, but then the book hurtled to the ending and I was extremely unhappy.
Note: Spoilers from here on out. They’re hidden under a tag on this post, but sometimes feed readers don’t hide them, so fair warning.
This is a bookish pet peeve of mine–when the “magical world”(in this case, Lost) is considered inherently superior to the “normal world”. It totally made sense that Lauren found a purpose in Lost, but to make her feel like she had an OBLIGATION to go back there took away her entire emotional journey for me. I just really hate the implications whenever books do this(the magical over the “mundane” in books where both exist). Readers live in the mundane, and it’s extremely upsetting to be told that the world you live in is inferior to this magical world. Now, this may not bother everyone, but it bothers me immensely. There are a few times when it’s done in a reasonable enough way that I can overlook my dislike, but The Lost wasn’t one of those times, considering I still had reading whiplash from the first twist. By the ending, many of my more favorable thoughts had been torn down.
I liked The Lost, but I would have liked it more without a few specific plot points that are rarely down well. The redeeming quality for this book came, for me, through the character of Lauren and her emotional journey. While I didn’t always feel the premise was used to its full potential, I really found myself growing more and more attached to Lauren and that, in the end, saved the book for me. 3/5 cupcakes.