Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

The Lost - Sarah Beth Durst
”Do you trust me?”
It’s a line from a dozen romantic movies, and if I were the romantic sort, this is where I would swoon, take his hand, and pledge my devotion. I’m not romantic, but I’m also not stupid. So I take his hand and lie.

This one’s probably going to get a lot of dissenting opinions across my friends’ list, and if you’re the kind of reader who can latch on an inconsistency like a rabid dog to a bone, this might be a tough sell for you. 

A book that is part Alice, part Peter, part Dorothy, part Twilight Zone. 

Yeah tough sell.

Lost is the town Lauren Chase finds herself in when she didn’t make her usual left turn at the light. She only meant to spend the night, a brief reprieve from the final judgment on her mother’s health. Except nobody leaves Lost until The Missing Man says so. And The Missing Man will only let you go if you’ve found what it is you need. But soon as Lauren introduces herself to The Missing Man, he turns away and leaves the forsaken town and its people scouring the streets for what they need. This of course makes the townsfolk angry at Lauren, banishing her in the out skirts where she finds the unlikeliest of allies in Claire, a knife-and-teddy-bear wielding six-year old and Peter, The Finder. Determined to find a way to get through the impenetrable dust cloud called The Void surrounding the town, Lauren bides her time with her newfound friends, learning to survive and, eventually, forming bonds she never meant to forge with anyone. She only means to go home to her sick mother, but each day in The Lost living with Peter and Claire in the perfect yellow house makes it harder and harder for her to leave.

It took me a while before I got settled into Durst’s narrative flow. As I’ve read more and more, I found myself less bothered by the first person present tense, more impatient with staccato, halting descriptions with a penchant for flight of ideas. Thankfully Lauren had a dry wit and sense of humour in her to keep me focused on what she’s talking about (most of the time) but the early chapters I kept on slipping in and out of the scene. Though maybe it had a lot to do with my initial disdain towards Lauren for coming across a selfish, dependent coward. I had a lot of nitpicks towards Lauren in the beginning:

1. For a self-confessed paranoid with an overactive imagination, it took her a good long time (roughly at 40%) to actually acknowledge the circumstances in the crazy town is not normal. 

2. She tries to call her co-workers, her mom, her work through a rotary phone… who remembers anybody’s number nowadays?

But clearly, as the story progressed, you realize the author intended for you to feel that towards her heroine… so you’d feel like a massive asshole in the end.

This is Sarah Beth Durst’s first foray into adult fiction, my first of hers, but the YA-hand is very apparent. From the themes she chose to tackle, to the wry humour in the dialogue, to the way she builds her characters’ personality… it was all very heavy-handed YA. 

”He slept in my closet most of the time.”
“That wasn’t a metaphor, was it?”
“Nope, literally in my closet. To protect me.”
“From dangerous hangers?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it took a bit of getting used to, having a perpetually shirtless, ripped and tattooed hero portrayed as a Peter Pan-Elphaba-Mad Hatter fusion character. I’ve seen it done once with Criminy Stain fromWicked as They Come, my rather adult lewd feels were followed by a moment of guilt and shame. 

So. Very. Wrong.

Then it swings back to lewd again.

There was a certain degree of bittersweet, fairytale-whimsy in the idea of a town that is a landfill for all the things lost by people, including people who are lost themselves (though I’m a little unclear as to how you “lose” electricity and water and not “waste”). It was pretty clear early on that there was gonna be a whole lot of yanking at those goddamn heartstrings as the story progressed. You can TRY not falling in love with Claire, Mr. Bunny and Mr. Fluffernutter (but odds are you will fail), someone will probably find a quirky hero who likes to quote Tolkien, Milton, Byron and Dickinson in casual conversation a pretentious dick (even if he did break my heart in the end), you will probably hate the dolphin (don’t ask)… but I’d have to question what’s occupying your chest cavity if you rage on the dynamic between Lauren and her mother.

”I couldn’t have gone.” Mom smiles, the barest upturn of her lips, as if even that movement costs her. “I’m not lost. Even on the day your father left, and everything I’d planned and dreamed of went up in smoke, I was not lost. I had you. Knowing you, loving you… I couldn’t… I can’t… be lost.”
(show spoiler)

Shred my heart a little more why don’t you, Durst?

It was such a lovely portrayal of a convincing healthy mother-daughter relationship. I don’t know why but contemporary fiction hasn’t been taking too kindly towards moms. 

They’re usually shoved into the role of the psychotic villain or the deserter that I was a little suspicious of a plot twist toward the end, wondering if there was catch to Lauren leaving her mother to face the test results on her own.

The romance started lukewarm and slow… just the way I like it. True, Lauren had a bit of an obsession over Peter’s physical perfection but it didn’t feel ridiculous. This had none of the nonsensical, out-of-nowhere profession of love. And if there was one thing I was a tad disappointed over, it was the lack of actual sexytimes in an actual Harlequin-MIRA book. Sometimes, I seriously believe this author forgets that she’s not bound by the PG-ness of YA anymore. I demand restitution in the form of no more than three but no less than one sex scene in the next installment (because the guilt and shame is so delectable).

Overall, this book? YES.

Not found in The Lost: 
Amelia Earheart
Certain people’s sense of humor
My patience for the next book

’All the world is made of faith, trust, and pixie dust.’

ARC courtesy of Harlequin-MIRA thru Netgalley. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof.