Let's Get Lost: 03/16/16
Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid is a YA deconstructionist road trip novel. While it can be read as a single novel, it's actually five interconnected short stories that trace the route north west of Leila as she heads for Alaska and the aurora borealis.
As so many of the road narrative books point out, the typical road trip starts in the East Coast or the Midwest (around Chicago or similarly sized city) and heads "into the sunset" for the hopes and dreams promised by the West (meaning Montana or Wyoming if the ending is a pastoral one, or California if the ending is promised in wealth and fame). The protagonist is typically a young male trying to find himself.
Here the protagonist is a young woman named Leila who has a romantic notion that all her problems will be solved if she can see the northern lights. She has left from Louisiana and is heading north and then west towards Alaska. Each story is one chunk in her time when she meets someone along the road having their own troubles.
This brings us to the second piece of the road trip narrative structure. The road allows travel between urban the rural. Part of the protagonist's growth and self discovery is through his (or her) interaction with other people along the road. These can be the mechanic who fixes the car and saves the journey but may not himself have any interest in embarking on a road trip, the hitchhiker who acts as confessor and father (or mother) figure, the stranded person who is either injured, ill, or drunk and is thus a way for some self redemption, and finally the people at the destination who force the protagonist to do the soul search he (or she) has been putting off on the drive.
Leila meets each one of these prototypical characters and they each get their own story. Are these cliché? Sure — they are tropes. But here they are needed. They are building blocks to explore the route and to learn about Leila well before she is willing to divulge anything. These characters are here for the same reason that romances guarantee a happily ever after.
If the answers found at the end of road aren't what the protagonist was looking for — if the grass wasn't actually greener on the other side of the fence, there is only one option but to turn around. Let's Get Lost has that to but expands it out to a coda where at long last we get into Leila's head. And while she doesn't get the happily ever after she was hoping for, she does get a chance at different sort of one.
I loved this book. I love it for the same reasons that romance fans keep going back to their favorite authors and publishers. I loved it because it tells a compelling story within an agreed upon set of rules and expectations.
You can see my live blogging of the book on Tumblr.