Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Book Sketch: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

By: Jessi Kirby
Published By: HarperTeen
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: 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.

First Thought After Finishing: Jessi Kirby has such a way with words!

I really enjoy self-discovery stories and stories set in nature so that I can experience it vicariously. This story gave me a view of the John Muir trail, something I could never hike, but it made me want to go outside and explore. It should come as no surprise that I loved everything about this story.

Mari has spent most of high school cultivating a perfect Instagram life. She even lost contact with her cousin Bri, who always lived life to the fullest. After what should have been their shared eighteenth birthday, Mari starts to rethink her life. She posts an soul-bearing video on social media before deleting her accounts. When Bri’s hiking backpack shows up, she makes a split-second decision to hike the trail both as an escape and in Bri’s honor. Along the way, she had to push herself out of her comfort zone both physically and emotionally. But will she conquer the journey, or will it conquer her?

"It's just what everyone does, I guess. We walk around carrying invisible weights, and doing our best to look like everything is okay even when it may not be...It's easy to do when you have a screen, and filters, and editing abilities standing between you and real life. But when you actually step out into the world, you don't get those options. Life is right there in front of you, and sometimes the only choice is to be real."

I’ll be honest: At the beginning, I thought Mari would annoy me. But giving up social media like she did is no easy feat. Although the adult part of me couldn’t believe that she was going alone (or without training), once she was out on the trail, I couldn’t help but cheer her on. Mari certainly has her work cut out for her on the trail, but she kept pushing herself forward. There’s something to be said about physically moving past a difficult time in life, and even reading about her hike seemed like a cathartic experience.

"Josh nods. 'Most definitely. Anyway,' he says. 'As long as we're beinng philosophical...I don't think that what we came looking for is as important as what we end up finding out here.'

I look at him, then back out at the creek, and think about what I've found so far. What I'm finding, every day I spend on the trail--strength and gratitude and wonder--all of these big things I didn't start out looking for."

Jessi Kirby has a knack for writing friendships and romances that can only happen away from the real world on trips or under the stars. Mari meets another group of teens who become a kind of trail family, and they not only showed her what life was missing but also helped her along the way. Even though I could tell most of the tests their friendship would face, I loved reading about their adventures together. This is the type of friend group that I would want to go road tripping or hiking with (if I actually went hiking, that is).

"Maybe that's the point--not to have figured out life by the end of it, but to have experienced living in an entirely different way. Fully present, and in ourselves, where we have to sit with our faults and find our strengths. One step at a time."

One of my favorite things about this book was the vivid depictions of the scenery along the trail. Jessi always writes scenes that I wish could be captured in paintings, and this book was no exception. I also really enjoyed the snippets from Bri’s journal and the connections formed between different people. It was a good reminder of the importance of living life to the fullest, because there are no guarantees. This book was a wonderful summer read and a groom way to refocus in quiet moments before a hectic school schedule set in. I highly recommend it to anyone!

Most Memorable Aspect: The breathtaking descriptions of nature.


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