Reviewing: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

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The book is shown here as a part of my Book Box Club September box! Keep an eye out for a review!

This book is a short but powerful piece of writing. Mari Turner is a teen influencer with an online following for whom she creates the illusion of the perfect life. We see her painstakingly perfect a beautiful breakfast post – and then pour it down the sink, because she needs to do a video and she cannot be bloated. We see her ‘boyfriend’ giving her gifts that she herself has purchased.

We see that she is alone.

Internet fame is something we are all aware of. Even here, now, I am writing a post for my blog. It will be shared on my instagram, my twitter account, posted beside a picture I commissioned of my own face under a pen name I created to reflect what I wanted to write online. Pictures of myself shared to the public will be ones I like, where I am probably wearing makeup and smiling, not the days where I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open and makeup is just too much energy to waste. I am by no means an influencer, but I know what it is to put an aspect of yourself out there and hope somebody, anybody, likes it. We all create lives for ourselves online to an extent.

The internet gives us the chance at a perfect life, at being who we want to be – it makes us feel good. It can also make us feel even worse.

Mari’s cousin Bri shares her birthday. They grew up together, making promises under the stars, going on adventures through the woods. But Mari found instagram and Bri found adventure, hiking and travelling, seeing the world and cramming as much living into every day as she could possibly do.

And then she died. A slip on a hike, a fall, and all that living was done.

We see Bri through Mari’s memories and the lense of her grief, a girl full of life and love who would have gone on to make the world a better place. She is dead when the book begins, and this is no high-fantasy adventure where she lives secretly after all. She is gone, and Mari does not know how to grieve a person she pushed away. Bri saw the life behind the filter, and that frightened Mari more than the idea of being alone. Their birthday arrives and Mari crumbles. For the first time she tells the people on the other end of the news feed something true – that she is alone, that she is grieving, that she is done with the empty glamour of her online life. When Bri’s hiking pack arrives on her doorstep the next morning, ready for an adventure she would never go on and with a permit arranged with the hopes that perhaps they could have mended that broken bond and gone on this journey together, it seems too much of a sign to ignore. Mari decides to do the first part of Bri’s hike in her memory

This book made me want to take up hiking. It reminded me of going on forest walks with my parents as a kid, the beauty and peace that can be found in the trees. I have always loved woods and meadows. When I was little a great adventure was us all getting into the car on a Saturday morning and driving somewhere new. I vividly remember running up and down huge sloping hills near windmills, hunting for fairies in the bluebells in the woods, striding through old castles as though I were a princess, so this book brought something up inside me that I haven’t felt in years and it made me unexpectedly emotional.

Mari starts the hike, and its grueling and dirty and she has no idea what she’s doing. Along the path she meets people who change her, and who remind her that there are parts of her that do not need to be changed. She doesn’t need filters and photo shoots to be loved. The most moving part of the book for me was when she encounters someone who knew Bri, who met her on a hike, who does not know she is dead. They may never meet again but in that moment together they share something incredibly intimate as they mourn together a girl who touched their lives in different, but no less meaningful, ways.

This is a book about grief. It is also a book about living. Bri will never come back from that hike, she will not go on to travel and teach and share her love with the world, but in the end she and Mari did go on that adventure together. She packed so much living into her numbered days that even once they were over, that joy for life helped her cousin step out of her bedroom, away from her camera and into a life where her smiles were real, if less photogenic, where she pushed herself to the breaking point and came back strengthened. It was a short book, but I know it will stay with me for a long time.

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Overall rating:  5 books out of 5

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