Saturday, October 22, 2016
Review: Wanderlost by Jen Malone
Author: Jen Malone
Rating: 2 Stars
I received an ARC of Wanderlost a few months ago and, after sampling a few chapters, I completely wrote this book off. Aubree, the protagonist, was a tad too immature and whiny for me to handle and her voice simply didn't speak to me. But when the raving reviews of Wanderlost began to flood in closer and closer to its release date, I dug out my ARC again and resolved to give this novel another try, with an open mind.
Well, it turns out my first instincts are spot-on. Wanderlost didn't improve much for me past those first few chapters and while I found redeeming qualities, certainly, this isn't a novel I would recommend. In fact, do yourself a favor a buy a copy of Kristen Hubbard's Wanderlove instead--similar title, relatively similar premises, but a much stronger plot and romance.
My number one issue with Wanderlost was Aubree. Elizabeth, Aubree's older sister, is whip-smart and determined--she always gets her way and she doesn't let anything stop her. When Aubree throws a party with underage drinking and Elizabeth covers for her, Elizabeth is arrested and can't leave the country to lead a tour around Europe as planned. Since Aubree now owes her, big time, Aubree takes her place and leaves her small town, for the first time, terrified to be traveling to Europe. Aubree is so ungrateful. I won't deny that Elizabeth isn't the most supportive older sister, but Aubree refuses to see the opportunity in front of her eyes. I found her inner monologues so frustrating and wanted her to open up, see eye-to-eye with her sister, and seize this experience.
Aubree gets there--eventually!--but it takes so very long and I found myself unimpressed by her growth arc. The tour itself is cute, with six elderly men and women and Sam, a sophomore in college who is added onto the tour last-minute to help his grandmother with her elbow injury. Sam is downright adorable and it's hard not to fall for him. Why he fell for Aubree? A mystery. Their romance didn't make me swoon in the least and the matchmaking going on between the grandmothers and grandfathers on this tour made me roll my eyes. It was so very cliche.
I appreciate that Malone really does develop Aubree and Elizabeth's relationship over the course of this novel and, what's more, she tries to add facts about different European cities. It doesn't feel atmospheric and the prose is unremarkable but it's easy to forgive that with Sam around. But, this novel fell so short of being wonderful for me. I wanted Aubree to really grow and change on her own but it felt as if so much of her opening up was due to Sam. And that isn't a bad thing, but I wanted more of her individual growth, too. And, perhaps I was comparing this too much to Just One Day and Wanderlove. (The latter, especially, features a 17-year-old girl on a tour in a foreign country for the first time, traveling alone, so the similarities were inevitable.)
Wanderlost isn't exceptional, new, or ground-breaking. It's a quick, simple read that will make you smile. The conflict isn't anxiety-inducing and though there was a particular plot point that surprised me quite a bit towards the end, this book is exactly what you imagine it will be--sadly, nothing more.