posted at Friday, May 27th, 2016 at 10:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Wanderlost by Jen Malone
Published by HarperTeen on May 31, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository
Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.
Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.
Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.
But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.
Last year, I took a chance on Epic Reads Impulse and found the delightful shippiness that is Jen Malone in her YA debut Map to the Stars. With her second effort, Wanderlost, Malone joins the ranks of my very favorite contemporary fluff authors. If you enjoy the contemporary romances of Miranda Kenneally and Kasie West, you should most definitely be reading Jen Malone. Wanderlost is so good that I even want to check out her middle grades, even though I’m not so much for middle grade. Wanderlost is a funny, sweet read that will make you want to schedule a European vacation. Also, did I mention SHIPPY?
What I’ve noticed with both of Malone’s books is that there ones I fall in love with on the first page. The second I start reading, there is voice. Immediately her heroines have felt real to me, and I’ve been sucked into their stories. I mean, yeah, she’s excellent at banter and tropes, but the voice is what catches me first. Aubree’s voice is funny, unsure, and a bit outspoken.
Wanderlost, like most contemporary novels, is very much a book that’s all about the character arc. There’s a plot of sorts, but it’s by far the weakest element. Aubree changes a lot on the journey and that, plus the romance and friendships, is what this book is really about. At the outset of the novel, Aubree doesn’t want to go to Europe; she doesn’t want to go anywhere because she loves Ohio. As her friends plan to head off to colleges around the states, she’s happily planning to live at home while attending Kent State. Even though her mother’s a bit controlling, she loves her mom’s cooking and having everything done for her
The plot, as I mentioned, is a bit weak. In the first chapter, in what is very obviously happening only for the plot to be set in motion, Aubree’s sister Elizabeth gets arrested (for “giving alcohol to minors” in a party Aubree threw that she had nothing to do with). Elizabeth was scheduled to be a tour guide in Europe to senior citizens for the summer but she’s not allowed to leave Ohio until her court date. Freaking out that this will ruin her employment plans (working for a politician and becoming one herself someday), she asks Aubree to pretend to be her and do the trip. I’m willing to mostly roll with it, though the party doesn’t seem the most Aubree thing to do and the plan really doesn’t fit the put-together Elizabeth. So yeah, there will be some suspension of disbelief issues here but I didn’t have to much of an issue with it once the trip got started.
Aubree’s terrified to travel, let alone have to lead a tour when she knows next to nothing about Europe. Of course, she has the handy dandy binder her sister made her with every bit of information she could possibly need. Which she leaves in the plane’s seat back pocket. Along with her phone. (Do not ever ever ever put anything you would be sad to lose in those pockets; I’ve done something similar and just do not do it.) Unwilling to live up to her sister’s expectations and admit to failing epically, Aubree decides to wing it. There are some mistakes (like taking a while to learn to answer to “her name”) and difficulties (like the bus driver who only speaks Spanish, which Elizabeth speaks and she does not) and straight up lies (like about the origins of a castle). Aubree gets caught almost immediately by one of the people on the tour, but he’s a sweetheart who agrees to help her out. Love love Mr. Fenton. I also love that she doesn’t get away with the deception all that well because it helps reduce those disbelief issues.
Where Map to the Stars was a bit clunky was everything outside of the ship. The relationships the main character had with the other characters sometimes felt a bit off or rushed. In Wanderlost, Malone does a really great job with that. All of the secondary characters are lovable and well-developed. I mean, even Hank and Maisy become semi-likable by the end. Emma and Mary are adorable and very much remind me of the Miss Allens from A Room with a View. Aubree’s relationship with Mr. Fenton is one of the most emotional elements of the novel. Delores has her own little character arc which is also very sweet.
Then there’s the adorable romance. For a lot of the novel, Aubree and Sam haven’t even seen each other. He works for the tour company, so they do daily calls so he can find out how the tour is going. On the first one, Aubree, who had just been talking to her mother before his call, accidentally ends the call with “loveyoubye.” Sam, being a fun-loving guy doesn’t let it go but starts up a flirtation over the phone. It is so very cute and so very banter. They’re so freaking cute. It’s very much instalike, but there’s no instalove and the connection is very believable so yes A+.
The travel aspect was amazing. Even though Aubree was complaining a lot about having to go, she is basically immediately charmed by Europe. She spends the whole trip marveling and, when she manages to relax, loving every moment. Each place becomes her new favorite (with one exception). However, she remains Aubree, mostly refusing to eat the unfamiliar foods. Girl, I have been you. I’m still kind of you. For the places I’d visited, the descriptions were definitely spot on, and I cannot wait to go see all those other places. <3
Fluffy contemporary fans, seriously Jen Malone’s books. I would not steer you wrong. Both Wanderlost and Map to the Stars are a shippy goldmine.
“But what if there’s someone in you who is brave and would want to go skinny-dipping in the Italian Riviera?”
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: