The Other Side of Lost – Jessi Kirby – HarperTeen – published 7 August 2018
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.
Jessi Kirby is no stranger to writing heartfelt stories that touch on grief and strength in the face of it, and she does it again so expertly in The Other Side of Lost. Grief, loneliness, the cost of false facades and things you can’t undo are combined with the beauty of nature, the importance of friendship and the strength and resilience that can be found within. The Other Side of Lost made me want to grab a pair of hiking boots and hit a trail.
Mari has constructed an identity online, carefully editing and filtering for optimum followers and likes. But online celebrity cost her a relationship with her cousin, and on her eighteenth birthday, evaluating where’s she come from and all that she has lost, she decides to throw everything away. After posting a video online outing herself and her false identity, she takes up her cousin’s plans to hike the John Muir Trail. Over 200 miles will push Mari to her limits, but it just might give her the chance to start over.
I’ve read a few books where characters decide to take up a big hike or venture into the unknown. The physical test never fails to offset emotional and mental endurance. I loved how in The Other Side of Lost it doesn’t come easy for Mari. She dislikes hiking, is totally unprepared and basically has no idea what she’s doing. It doesn’t come easy but she perseveres anyway. I enjoyed her journey and connected with her grief and her feelings of inadequacy.
Friendship plays a strong part in this book. Reflecting on the close connection she lost with her cousin, Mari mourns the friendship that her online identity cost her. Yet through her journey and Bri’s journals and letters, Mari begins to rediscover that connection. Mari also falls in with a group of hikers, quickly forging lively banter and later deeper friendships. There is also a hint of romance within the story – stolen kisses and shared connection between the stars. It doesn’t take over the plot, though, as the story belongs to Mari and her self-discovery.
Through moments of reflection, gorgeous scenery, and endurance, The Other Side of Lost is a delightful story of self-discover and starting over, of enjoying and fully immersing yourself in life.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Contemporary, Adventure.
Themes: Hiking, social media, relationships, online identity, self identity, friendship, grief, cousins.
Reading age guide: Ages 12/13 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, fu** (3), sh** (9), pi**(1), bi*** (2), di** (1). Vaguely implied sexual references.
Published: 7 August 2018 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 320 pages.