Book Review: Essential Maps for the Lost

Essential Maps for the Lost
By: Deb Caletti
Published by: Simon Pulse
Release date: April 5, 2016
Genre: YA Contemporary
336 pages
Source: galley kindly provided by publisher

I am very excited to have had a chance to review this new offering from Deb Caletti. Friends have recommended several of her books over the years, so I felt privileged to be able to return the favor and offer my feelings on this one.

Essential Maps is the story of two young people who are broken in similar ways. Mads is recovering from years of being supportive, to the point of co-dependence, of her mother. She doesn't feel allowed to pursue her own dreams, and is emotionally chained to her very needy mom. Billy has spent years looking after his mother, who has suffered from depression without the aid of a caring adult. The pair of them understand each other in profound ways, but the circumstances that led to their meeting are heartbreaking.

Mads is a swimmer, who in the early pages of the book, bumps into a body in the lake and brings it to shore. It's the body of Billy's mother. Mads' drive to understand why the woman took her own life leads her to research the woman, eventually leading her to Billy. Of course, how do you tell someone that you're the person who pulled his dead mother from the water?

One of my favorite parts of Billy's character is that because he was never able to really rescue his mother, he rescues dogs instead. The scenes with him caring for these defenseless creatures are very sweet, and come across and completely sincere. He has found a positive outlet, and it makes me want to cheer him on.

Billy tries to conform to the social constructs of macho guy culture, complete with cussing and confusion about whether or not it's okay to show how much he likes Mads- and he also dissolves into a bawling mess a few times, as is expected of someone who's been through his trauma. I like Mads, but I enjoyed Billy's characterization even more.

If you're ready for a story about kids who have experienced hard stuff but come through with hope because they find strength in each other, this is a great one to pick up.

From beloved author and National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti comes a fresh and luminous novel about the grief that can tear us apart and the people who can make us whole again.

When Madison makes a startling discovery, the body of a dead woman floating in the middle of a lake, the summer after her senior year becomes more complicated than she ever expected.

Madison (Mads to everyone who knows her) is staying with her aunt and uncle in Seattle after graduating from high school. Being away from her needy, unstable mother who's been pressuring her to take over the family business is such a relief. Now all Mads has to worry about is taking classes, swimming laps, and fighting off the sadness that threatens to overtake her.

That is, until the traumatic moment Mads collides with a body in the middle of the lake. After swimming the body back to shore, Mads becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the woman and what drove her to leap off of the Aurora Bridge. Determined to discover more, Mads parks outside the woman's home and sees the woman's son: the sweet and tormented Billy Youngwolf Floyd.

Through a series of not-so-happenstance meetings, Mads and Billy realize that desperate mothers and rescue missions are not the only thing that bonds them. Billy carries a map in his pocket; the one of the museum from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and it's his dream to visit the museum one day. And though book-loving Mads is expected to return home to her already-decided future, her dream is to run away to a life of her choosing.

As the unlikely pair fall hard for each other and as the summer draws to a close, Billy and Mads must decide whose story to follow: their family's or their own.