Wanderlost by Jen Malone
Format: ARC (Thank you, Cee!)
My Rating: 5/5
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.
The perfect summer read.
That’s exactly what this book. Everyone should SERIOUSLY pick up this book and read it. It’s an extremely quick, cute and swoony read. A cute boy and a trip for 3 weeks across Europe with senior citizens. This is literally that one contemporary book that y’all need. It wasn’t so much instalove which I liked because you fall in love with Sam (the guy) just like the MC. Not only was the romance absolutely adorable, but this book highlights a sister relationship and self-discovery which I really thought was done beautifully.
Also, do you all know what second-hand embarrassment is? I experienced that for the main character, Aubree. Something bad would happen, or she’d do something silly and I would would just shake my head and get really nervous for her. But I felt for the girl! It was honestly such a fun story and I loved every single page. Also, since this book is set in Europe, it is so so obvious that the author did her research and made touring with senior citizens in Europe sound appealing and awesome. The fact that research and experience was evident in the pages made it that much more authentic. I also think that ending for Aubree was perfect. It definitely was what she needed.
So, since I loved Wanderlost so much, I asked the lovely Jen Malone if she’d like to answer a few questions, so without further ado, here are her A’s to my Q’s!
What was the seed that planted your idea for your novel Wanderlost?
Wanderlost actually came about because my grandmother went on a senior citizen bus tour through Europe in the 80’s and a couple years ago I came across a postcard she’d sent a much smaller me, from that trip. My dad and I were joking about what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall for that ride (my grandmother had a big personality and probably heckled the poor guide relentlessly) and inspiration struck. I knew it was a scenario totally ripe for laughs and I love writing fish-out- of-water.
Are you a big traveler yourself? If so, what’s been your favorite location?
I am the exact opposite of Aubree (who has never left home at the start of Wanderlost) in that I have the travel bug in a big way. I saved for years during college to do a solo (well, it was supposed to be with a boyfriend, but that’s a story for another day) round-the- world trip. In ten months I hit 42 countries on a budget of $24 a day and it was life-changing. Favorite location was Nepal—completely exotic but also so friendly and welcoming. It’s harder these days with work and husband and kids and a mortgage, but I’m really, really hoping a trip to Scotland is in my someday future because Outlander is just not getting me close enough to all that amazing!!
If there’s one message you’d like your readers to take from Wanderlost, what would it be?
Go! Get out there and explore!! You don’t need a fortune and you don’t need a reason. I maintain I learned more in that one year abroad than in 16 years of school, and the main thing was to have faith in humanity. I can’t even tell you the thousands of small and big ways total strangers helped me out just because I needed it at that moment, with no other motive or reward. It’s an amazing thing to know firsthand about the humans of this world when otherwise you’re left at the mercy of the media’s portrayals. It’s turned me into kind of a Pollyanna, but I’m okay with that, especially these days.
Are you working on any other books now?
I just turned in a final draft of a new summer travel romance, called Changes in Latitude, which will publish with HarperTeen next year this time. It’s a road trip novel… but by sea. My main character Cassie is furious when her mom, whom Cassie blames for causing her parent’s divorce a few months prior, enlists the two of them and Cassie’s 14yo brother to courier a sailboat from Oregon to the southern tip of Mexico. The last thing she wants is to be trapped on a boat for four months with the one person in the world she’s desperate to distance herself from… but all is not as she expects. Luckily there’s a cute deckhand aboard a yacht making the same trip, and he turns exploring the California coastline into less of a hardship than Cassie originally imagined. I’m thrilled early readers of Wanderlost are swooning so hard over Sam, but to that I just have to say, wait until you meet JONAH!!!
What was the hardest or most agonizing thing about writing Wanderlost? The research? The characters? The romance?
I think the part that comes most naturally and that I get so excited to write is always the romance- I love writing banter (and kissing scenes aren’t such a hardship either). The toughest for me Is usually nailing the main character. I want that MC to grow throughout the story, which means she has to be in a place of needing to change at the opening of the book. But it’s a tricky thing to make a character who’s starting out flawed and/or immature still read as likable in those beginning pages. The research is always really fun for me, though it does take forever and can definitely slow down the first-draft process. But if I can’t personally be in the location I’m writing about, armchair travel is the next best thing!
Your characters are so realistic, full of life and absolutely hilarious. Which of your characters do you see as yourself the most?
Thank you so much- that means more than you can imagine! In Wanderlost I’d say I best identify with Aubree. Even though, unlike her at the start, I was dying to explore foreign places, I was still every bit as overwhelmed and scared as she is, when I was at the beginning of my trip around the world. I got to the airport to leave for my first leg (Baltimore to New Zealand) and very nearly backed out of it. I remember my dad putting his hands on my shoulders and saying, “You have to do this now because soon you’ll have a career and obligations or kids and you won’t have time the way you do now.” (He was so right: see my answer to question 1.) Later my mom told me he cried the whole drive home because he was every bit as scared for me as I was, but he sure never showed that to me at the time! Thanks, Dad!
Any favorite current (or past) reads that you can’t stop thinking about that you’d love to share?
Always! I really adore Alison Cherry’s books and her new one that comes out in June is called LOOK BOTH WAYS and is about a girl who goes to summer theater camp to try to appease her family and winds up really finding herself in unusual ways (such a tease, but to say more would give a lot away!). To rattle off a few others I’ve read and loved recently: Lindsay Ribar’s ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES, Darcy Wood’s SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS, Dahlia Adler’s JUST VISITING, Maggie Hall’s The Conspiracy of Us series, Jennifer Longo’s UP TO THIS POINTE (if you need to cool off this summer, its Antarctic setting should help with that), Jeff Garvin’s SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN (how does one write a whole book without using a pronoun for the main character? In awe of the craft that took!)… Gah, I could go on and on!
I always like asking this questions to all authors because it provides a lot of insight and knowledge,so, what’s one thing you’ve learned from becoming a published author? Any life lessons?
Oh, so many many MANY! There are a zillion life lessons, both in publishing and on the road to publication. I think the biggest one I’m learning (though it takes constant reminding and gut checks) is that, when it comes to publishing, there are wishes and there are goals and those are two different things. The trick is finding your happiness in the goals, not the wishes. Making a bestseller list? Having a book in the Scholastic book club? Selling a zillion foreign rights? Maybe I’ll wish on stars for those, but if they were to happen, I’d also have to acknowledge they were the product of luck and timing and a whole lot of effort on a whole lot of other people’s parts and I won’t curl up and quit if they don’t happen. Writing something outside my comfort zone? Writing a novel while traveling to its settings? Finding that adrenaline rush that comes from getting lost in crafting a story? Goals. Totally within my power to make those happen and find happiness from them. Owning a food truck I could convert into a bookmobile/coffee shop and take on the road? Half wish/half goal? Who wants to set up my Kickstarter campaign for that?!