[This post is the fifth in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]
Join author Jen Malone on her first international journey filled with enticing experiences and an unexpected longing for a lustful romance in her newest novel,Wanderlost.
Place yourself in the beginning of the novel with quirky and angsty Aubree at a graduation celebration with her class accompanied by a slew of forbidden alcoholic refreshments. A cop soon approaches the house with the intention of addressing a noise complaint, Elizabeth, Aubree’s older sister, answers to the door to cover her sister and her friend, but then the cop leaves with Elizabeth in handcuffs. For the sake of saving her sister’s political career, Aubree is sent on a European tour with Elizabeth’s application, Elizabeth’s passport, and a bus of senior citizens.
While, at times, readers may wonder why Aubree seems unwilling to venture out of her comfort zone, her meal choices and honest unawareness of the world outside her realm of Midwestern living reminds the reader to take a trip back to life as a teenager. Even though teenagers may think they will remain protected by their parents, their realities are extremely different from the realities of adulthood.
While avoiding revealing numerous accounts of fraud, Aubree pretends to be Elizabeth during the trip, and the plan seems to unfold flawlessly until she meets the trip owner’s handsome son, Sam. While this plot seems a tad bizarre, it aids in creating a humorous experience for Aubree. After being overcome with guilt, she begins to slowly tell Sam the truth while also attempting to conceal her identity. Playing dress-up for Elizabeth becomes difficult though when she realizes she enjoys being independent and adventurous, which were definitely not qualities she possessed before this well-planned but also unintended trip. Her thoughts on her summer in Europe changed from “I like things predictable and familiar and safe and easy” to “This place is magical. All of it.”
Aubree’s growth brings a fresh insight to the reader about how harrowing circumstances might be the best way to realize your own strength and independence. The pacing of Aubree’s thought process encapsulates the thought process of a teenager nearing adulthood who wants to impress her family, but who also does not want to grow up quite yet. These conflicting thoughts keep the reader entertained as we gain insight on why she makes the decisions she does throughout the novel. It is through these scenarios in which we see Aubree’s remarkable growth.
Before she left for her trip, Aubree had never even had a job or been out of her hometown. Now, she is in Europe, handling deranged sets of chaos, and even finding a seemingly perfect guy. Will she be able to balance handling her independence, perfecting her duties worthy enough for a good review from her boss for Elizabeth, and falling for Sam? Readers will become entranced when reading Aubree’s international tale.