Desert Isle Keeper
The Geography of Lost Things
Jessica Brody’s The Geography of Lost Things tells the story of a road trip from youth to maturity – and from repulsion to forgiveness – and is a really great little slice of growing up and all of the complications fraught with inheriting a complex legacy.
When Ali Collins’ long-estranged father, Jackson, passes away and leaves her his Firebird convertible and a mountain of bad memories, she has no idea what to do with either. He was a D-list rock star wannabe, perpetually drunk, a deserter and an irresponsible roamer who ran off to become a roadie with the early 2000s grunge band Fear Epidemic – and was barely involved in her life. Her mother has struggled for years to get away from the shadow he’s imposed on them both, and the weight of his debts is still dragging them into insolvency. Orderly, well-mannered Ali was offered a full scholarship to UC Davis in the fall and has recently rejected it; she also plans on rejecting the car and any memories of Jackson. But then she learns that her childhood home, the home that means everything to her, is about to be foreclosed on by the bank. In desperation, she posts the car for sale and a classic car aficionado offers her $32k for it – enough to settle all of her debts. But the problem is that he lives miles away in Crescent City. The only car she has access to is the Firebird, but the only problem is she can’t drive stick.
That’s when she runs into her ex-boyfriend, Nico, whom she’s been avoiding for ages. Nico can drive stick; surely she can endure his smugness for a five and a half hour car ride?
She doesn’t expect Nico to beg her to keep the car, to learn that he still has a soft spot for her… and that things are more complicated than they seem. She learns Nico lied about his life, and about where he was – which was one of the reasons they broke up. When they go viral thanks to a Craigslist posting, a chain of events occur that might result in Ali keeping the car – and learning more about Jackson – and getting the cash she needs to save the house. When Ali has to choose between selling her complicated legacy or trusting Nico, what will she do?
The Geography of Lost Things is a great character study about life, about having a disappointing parent and learning to cope with it – and about growing up and learning to avoid replicating the mistakes of your family.
Ali is interestingly quirky without being cloying. She tries to figure out who she is by doing lots of online quizzes, and she works out the choices presented to her by life in a similar manner. She has become mature as a reflexive reaction to her father’s perpetual immaturity, and that’s more than understandable.
Ali and Nico have a certain way about them, something that speaks to the power of old friendships and new beginnings. Theirs is a bond based on creative swearing and dogs, on music and secrets slowly emerging.
The biggest problem with the novel is that Nico is kind of a smug jerk for around half of it. Ali sees what the reader sees – that Nico is like Jackson, and that she could end up treading the same path as her mother if she stays with him. Slowly, he proves he’s more tender, more goofy, and more responsible than Jackson ever was.
The relationship between Jackson and Ali provides the novel’s other underpinning. Jackson’s sense of self-pity and his inability to be long-sighted make him human, but I don’t quite buy the novel’s last–minute gesture of forgiveness towards him. No matter how much someone cares, no matter how guilty they are, exiling oneself from the life of one’s child’s doesn’t solve anything.
The Geography of Lost Things is powerful and well-written, a great little character study and the sort of summer journey a reader can easily be lost in without a trace. It’s enchanting and well worth a look from YA readers.