Date Finished: January 4th 2019
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 3.5 stars
We lie on our backs on the trampoline, drawn into the center by each other’s weight.
The Other Side of Lost follows Mari, a newly 18-year-old health and lifestyle Instagrammer, who is becoming disillusioned by the perfect life she feels she has to portray to the world. It looks as though her boyfriend is kind and loving, her vegan diet beautiful and her days full of sunshine, but storm clouds are brewing. Haunted by the loss of her cousin Bri, whom she hadn’t seen for several years previous, Mari decides she needs to make a change. That involves pulling down her social media and taking on the challenge of hiking the John Muir Trail, that her cousin had always dreamed of completing.
This is not necessarily a novel I would have gone out and bought for myself – however it was one of the monthly picks for the Book Box Club, where I am a Purely Books subscriber.
I really enjoyed this novel from Jessi Kirby. I felt that it was a novel that really took a look at social media and how much is can encompass modern day life, without outright condemning it. Whilst we see the struggles from the protagonist’s point of view, I personally didn’t feel that the author demonised any social media platforms. There were positive representations of Facebook/Instagram in what they can leave behind and how they bring people together.
Nature was represented in a very appealing and enticing manner throughout the story. I am not a hiker (or particularly active person), but there were several times in the novel that I wanted to book a ticket to see the settings described in person as they sounded beautiful. I do feel however that one of the detractors for me in this book was that I did find it hard to believe that the protagonist apparently had limited hiking experience but managed some of the feats described. True, it was described how hard she found certain things, but many inexperienced individuals would likely experience serious injury early on. This may come from the fact that apart from some of the early mentions of yoga, we had no descriptions of how active Mari was. (She was described as slim early in the story, but she also appeared to skip many meals early in the book which made me wonder if she may have an eating disorder).
The extensive cast of hikers and Bri were all very interesting and (in my opinion) well written characters. I really enjoyed the traits of them all in how they handled challenges and each other. The relationships felt genuine and realistic to me, although there were times when I wondered why they put up with Mari and some of the more dramatic moments during the novel. I also didn’t have as much difficulty with the introduction of the romance as some readers, I felt generally it wasn’t too much too soon given the ages of the characters involved and the circumstances. It also didn’t become the sole focus of the plot; however, I do agree that I would have enjoyed the whole story as much without the romantic element.
Overall I think this was a worthwhile contemporary novel, and I would encourage reads to stick around for the author’s note, as I felt some of the information regarding the direction of the novel did add extra dimension to the story.
TLDR: Social media influencer realises her life is all a fancy façade, so takes a challenging but uplifting hike in memory of her cousin; touching and warm but occasionally a little unrealistic.