Novel: The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody | Goodreads
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
In this romantic road trip story perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson, a teen girl discovers the value of ordinary objects while learning to forgive her absent father.
After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?
Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.
He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.
And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.
Weirdly enough, I love stories about exes. Whether they involve romantic yearning or just recovery. There’s an alluring tension and familiarity there that writers usually dive into well. Plus, plenty of couples I know have broken up and gotten back together again at times — but you rarely hear stories about them.
The premise of The Geography of Lost Things is compelling. In many ways, it felt predictable and convenient. Each time I read a book by Jessica Brody, I tell myself that I will feel different about it; however, usually they end up being too formulaic for my taste. Still, pleasant surprises mollified the occasional unreality of it, the feeling that I might be able to supply whatever a character would say next.
Nico is clever and nice, but somehow harbors secrets. Still, he has the idea that they will “trade up” to replace the value for the car. From a hairband to a Beatles CD set to a vintage typewriter, and so on. Although Ali is reluctant, he eventually persuades her to try — although the clock is ticking down to foreclosure on her house.
Ali was sweet and smart, and stubborn about keeping her childhood home. Although she goes to great lengths to attempt to salvage it, I don’t feel as if I ever got around to understanding why. There were certain aspects of her stubbornness, such as her college decision, that didn’t quite make sense.
Character-wise, that’s about all I can say. Both of them were likable, and fit with the narrative, but weren’t distinct enough on their own.
The gems were actually the side characters, the brief flickers of personalities that they encountered on the road. From a struggling writer to a lesbian chess player, they find an astonishing array of people responding to their Craiglist ad — which uses their exes-stuck-in-a-car-together narrative to gain leverage to get home.
My favorite part, I think, was the struggle in how to go about going on a road trip together without it becoming too easy. Where’s the line of forgiveness? What level of ease is acceptable for being friends — and what level indicates that nothing has changed and that you’re still pretending to be in a relationship? The internal conflict that Ali s0rted through each time she discovered a “road rule” of traveling with her ex was absolutely fabulous. Items that caused pangs.
The writing felt relatively mundane. It didn’t quite stand out in any way, and a lot of the language felt familiar. Pair that with the predictability of the plot and it just fell flat for me.
My problem with this book was just that a lot of the writing felt really awkward. Ali’s voice didn’t feel natural, or really endearing in any way. Nico felt stilted in SO many ways, and there wasn’t much to root for in terms of their relationship. Like, it sounds like they didn’t have that much going for them anyways — why do I care? For such a relationship-focused book, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of history there.
And aside from her father and her road trip, there wasn’t a lot going on in the book. I was intrigued by her college decision and Nico’s supposed betrayal — but those were just shown in flashes and not fleshed out a lot! If we’d gotten more of that tension, I think it would have been a lot more successful.
The most interesting aspect of the book was actually her relationship with her father, but it seemed abrupt. Is he actually a good guy, or is he nuanced, or what? She flip-flopped so much on that point that it never quite committed to anything — which, again, is an element that would have made it stronger.
I don’t think there was enough going on for this book to satisfy me. The characters weren’t endearing enough to capture my interest, the plot was a little too flat, and something about the writing style felt a little awkward. Still, the concept is fresh and I’m always happy to see more ex-oriented stories, so hopefully other readers enjoy it more than I did. My review is a little short, just because I don’t have a lot to say!