You never know what Sarah Beth Durst is going to do next. Fairy tales mixed with science? Vampires and unicorns? Gods taking over human bodies? Creepy carnivals? She’s done all of that and more, and with The Lost, Durst begins another story that, just like her previous novels, is completely different from what has gone before.
Lauren Chase took to the open road to get away, just for a little while, from the prospect of bad news about her mother’s health. Instead she found herself caught in a dust storm and then stuck in a town called Lost. People and things that are “lost” to the outside world find their way here, and no one can leave until the Missing Man allows them to go home. But something goes terribly wrong when the Missing Man meets Lauren, and now the townspeople of Lost are convinced Lauren has driven away their only hope. Now, with most of Lost’s population hostile toward her, Lauren has to find allies, survive, and somehow figure out how to get home. Along the way, she learns that she might have an unusual talent…
Lauren is a character who is easy to root for; she’s flawed but sympathetic, and her situation is so confusing and creepy that the reader really feels for her predicament and wants to get to the bottom of the mystery. The setting is ingenious and Durst explores all sorts of possibilities in terms of what kinds of things might be lost, and thus available to Lauren while she’s there. Later the novel takes a poignant turn, and there’s also a palpable sense of “Lost feels more real than the ‘real world’” that appears late in the book and works really well.
Unlike most of Durst’s previous works, The Lost is the beginning of a series. Durst resolves one major plot but leaves many mysteries to be solved, and the reader wanting more. I look forward to reading The Missing, scheduled for November of this year.
The Lost is billed as Durst’s first foray into adult fiction, with her previous books having been categorized as YA. So far, other than the heroine being older and having started a career, it doesn’t “feel older” than the other Durst books I’ve read, especially since Lauren is quickly separated from most of this daily-life stuff and dropped into a world where it doesn’t really matter how old she is, and you don’t think about it much. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a teenage reader on the basis of content (the romantic subplot is chaste to this point), though adult readers will also enjoy exploring Lost’s mysteries.