The Other Side of Lost

The Other Side of Lost

by Jessi Kirby

SYNOPSIS:

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.

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I had the following note on Goodreads, from before reading the book: “I have no idea what this story is about, but… as I loved all her other stories, this one is such a big MUST! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!”

Now that I know ALL about it, I can say that “The Other Side of Lost” is a beautiful and emotional story about finding yourself, about challenges, regrets and second chances, about friendship and nature and survival and a lot more. And yes, there is a bit of sweet love squeezed in there as well, to make your heart skip a beat. The truth is that I still need to have it on my shelf in physical format (to re-read it and hug it every now and then), so August can’t come fast enough!

THE STORY

Still, I have no idea how to properly put into words all the things I loved about this story, but you should know this:

It’s delightful to be able to resonate with a story as I did, to have something in common with it – and what I think is that we all need to be accepted – as we are, and some people might need just as much acceptance online as in the real life and vice versa. I think that we need to constantly exceed our own limits; and that every once in a while it is healthy for the mind (and the body) to do something crazy (preferably not dangerous, nor this reckless), something out of character, something meaningful, something for ourselves only, something to be proud of.

Lit tent on a mountain trial under a clear summer sky with lots of stars.

It’s also fulfilling to understand the character arc, to see it evolve slowly from someone pretty much unlikable to someone deeply lovable. And this is what this story delivered to me. At the beginning I didn’t like the main character – Mari (judging by her name, I hoped to end up loving her) seemed too shallow, so selfish, and she was even naïve when she decided to hike the entire John Muir trail (because let’s be honest, she had no experience and had no idea what she was getting herself into) and even more so when she considered doing it all alone, even when she found people (great people!) to tag along with.

It’s true that I have a soft spot for Jessi‘s prose – all her stories are emotional carousels, very well written and with deep messages, and I usually enjoy them to pieces. But what makes this story special to me is the combination between:
a) the fact that it shows a different face of the life behind the social media frenzy;
b) it also follows a character trying to find her way back to the real world, having to give up all that she’s worked for in the virtual one – in order to find the happiness she couldn’t stand faking anymore;
c) it involves what seems like a stunning national park (from the pictures I’ve seen around it is absolutely breathtaking) and backpacking, hiking, wilderness, unexpected friendship and (yes) a bit of love;
d) like most of Jessi Kirby’s stories, it tackles grieve in the same intimate and heartbreaking way we are used to.
What more do you need? For me it was perfect!

On a side note, I follow plenty instagramers on my bookish account and some are very successful and they seem like pretty happy people, but I also understand how among them there might be people – why not? – like Mari (working hard to make her life perfect on screen, but feeling hollow in the inside), or simply people searching for peer approval, deeply needing attention, trying to feel less alone, their self-worth depending directly on popularity – which might translate in the number of likes/comments. Maybe those people can resonate with this story in a whole different way and see that there’s a whole life beyond “likes” that can bring them even more happiness.

Anyways, back to the actual story…
If you are looking for a lot of adventure, I am not sure that you are looking in the right place. Things do happen – some funny for us, some frustrating for the main character, there are some fast-paced scenes when nature strikes, a couple romantic ones and plenty beautiful, emotional parts too. But I adored even the slow parts, the quiet of the mountain, the beauty of the scenery, the introspections, the memories, everything!

The cover of The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby with purple flowers placed on top

THE CHARACTERS

Mari is the typical teenager trying to find herself in a world of high & vicious standards.
It broke my heart to think of Mari’s petty life from before, of how she put so much energy into what she was passionate about, but how easily people judged her when she failed, how much she lost with one tiny click.
And while bullies are the worst everywhere, on the internet (the cyber bullies) they become these cruel monsters that can hurt without any regrets, because they hide behind their keyboards and they don’t actually see the results of their actions and words. And they’ve hurt her.
So I cheered for her when she decided to quit living that glamorous but fake online-life, and instead try to do something meaningful. And it wasn’t easy, she kept thinking of how everything she saw would translate into a post on instagram and the trail proved to be harder than she could even imagine, but she found herself while trying to manage the impossible and, at some point, she even found a group of great friends… She only sought solace but found so much more instead.

Reading the map on the Muir trail referenced in The Other Side of LostWhen it comes to Josh,  I might definitely have a crush.
Really, he was a great guy, not only did he save her life, but he was there in every way. A stranger who does not judge, just takes people for what they are and makes the best of every opportunity. And that confession made me like him even more. (BTW, I chose the image on the right only because it’s supposed to be taken on the John Muir trail, and because Josh was the one with the travel plans, didn’t check to see if he fits the description)

Bri… Oh, I deeply felt her loss.
All that life inside her, all that light shining through and so little time, she seemed like a comet in the summer sky. I don’t even want to think about young people dying, because it feels so unnatural and tragic, not to mention when that someone is close to you or when it leaves you full of regrets. But the author tactfully managed to make the story emotional without it feeling too overwhelming, giving us one dose at a time, at the right moments.

I also loved Vanessa and the crew so much!
They were great with each other, supportive, fun to be around. And it was so easy for Mari to become part of the group because they were so easy-going.

One thing though… Maybe I missed the part where the others told their own stories, it’s been a while since I read the book and I have to read it again, but I can only remember Josh’s reasons for doing this hike and I know that it’s been hinted time and time again about how everyone had their personal reasons. And I would have loved to know more about the other characters, their lives from back home (I could pray for a companion novel, but I am not the religious type and the author seems to stick to standalone stories, LOL!).
I cared deeply for them anyways, even though they didn’t get that much page-time (with the book focusing on Mari and her life before/after), they were so caring, so open and there was one scene near the ending that made me love them even more because they reacted just the way they should have. How my son would say: “yaaaaay!”.

I just need more!

It happens every time, with all favourite stories – I just can’t let them go.
And even though “The Other Side of Lost” was from the start a story about grieve, about Mari and Bri, maybe even more about Bri (it doesn’t matter she was long gone, it was her legacy making all this happen), I did want more from the romantic side story. One more chapter, one more scene, something to give a hint regarding how things went “behind the scenes”, afterwards.

The Other Side of Lost - The Muir trail It’s not that I am against open endings, it’s just that it wasn’t the only thing that didn’t get a full closure in my opinion, and this one seemed to scream the loudest because they were so cute together (even though neither Mari nor Josh was looking for romance on the trail, love had other plans for them and it found them). So…

Dear Jessi Kirby,

I hope that in my final copy I will find a Josh&Mari epilogue!
Otherwise know that you are a very cruel author :p

This book was pure perfection and I probably loved it the most (well, most times it seems that each new book I read from you I “love the most”, LOL)

Such a beautiful story!

Love,
Ari

CONCLUSION

To be honest, when I finished reading this beautiful story I had tears in my eyes. Happy tears.
It’s perfect! I loved it! 💞

Social media fakeness and everything that comes with it, heartbreaking drama, the beauty of nature and a great group of friends. Not to mention a cute romance and a character who goes through such a tremendous change throughout the story… love, love, loved it!

PS: Even if I have to cross the ocean and the mountains to do so, I’ll find a way to get the author’s autograph on this book. I promise this to myself!

Book source: ARC received from the publisher for review. Highly appreciated!
Cover review image created based on this image and this one.

Music of Choice

“If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home”

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