Book Review: Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Author: Jen Malone
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


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 begins unraveling, 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.


What if the phrase “Home sweet home” is only something you say because you’ve never been out of home? We’re gonna take a trip in this review of Wanderlost, just as the main character Aubree did across Europe. She never got lost during the course of her trip, but I’m afraid that my mind did over the course of reading this book. Although sweet and cute from beginning to end, with a relatable narration from the main character Aubree, it also fell extraordinary flat for me. Let’s visit some locations to find out why.

First Destination: Naivety Island

Aubree has never been out of her town in Ohio, so she finds herself a bit lost when she suddenly needs to act as a tour guide to six senior citizens in cities throughout Europe. On her first flight to Amsterdam, she loses her binder and cell phone with all the important documents needed, including her tour itinerary. It’s a dumb mistake, but it’s one that shows readers how entirely clueless Aubree is. In the beginning, it was super frustrating for me to read. She would make up tales about certain destinations when asked what it was, and I found it entirely laughable. Luckily enough, she definitely learns throughout the book and ends up being quite resourceful as the tour continues on. She starts researching ahead of time and it’s nice to see her being proactive. Aubree begins enjoying her time visiting the different countries, and falling in love with each of them.

My complaint is pretty personal though. As an experienced traveler myself (I’ve been going on international plane rides by myself since I was seven years old), Aubree’s foolishness made me roll my eyes so much. She was entirely clueless during the first couple of days of the tour because she didn’t have the binder of information mentioned above. So she hasn’t glanced over it during the plane ride enough to realize that the bus driver only spoke Spanish?? It made me extremely exasperated that her ignorance continued on even past the halfway mark. However, I did find that it was a gradual progression for Aubree to eventually learn her way around things, which I definitely appreciated.

The premise of this book is absolutely adorable, but absolutely unrealistic. If I were those senior citizens, I would not have wanted my tour to be loitered with the tour guide’s drama. Talk about how unprofessional that is!

Second Destination: Sister Shore

I found the sister relationship explored in this book extremely unsatisfying. Aubree has always felt like she’s been in the shadow of her older sister Elizabeth, who is an all-star in everything she does. This would obviously create some tension, which gets slightly resolved towards the end. When Elizabeth gets arrested in the beginning of the book, Aubree takes it up as her duty not to let her sister down by taking her role as a tour guide.

“She needs me. She needs me. My sister has never (not once, not ever)  needed me. I’m going to regret this with every single fiber of my being. I already am. But that still doesn’t stop me from whispering, ‘Okay.’”

I really thought this would have more development with the sister relationship. Sure, we get to see Aubree mature a bit throughout it all, but the interactions (especially the ones while Aubree was on her tour) did not flow at all for me and were extremely odd. Apologies were blown off without another thought, they suddenly become really good friends, and a piece of conflict mentioned in the beginning of the book never gets resolved. It felt incomplete and I think the author could have taken more time to focus more of this aspect of the book.

Third Destination: Nation of Supporting Characters

The supporting characters in this book really take the cake! Or more specifically, the senior citizens that Aubree gets to guide. Each of them have a unique personality that becomes quite endearing throughout the trip. They’re all extremely likable and Aubree gets to grow pretty close to them as she tries to get into her role of tour guide.

Fourth Destination: Samland

Another supporting character just deserves his own destination, haha. Sam, the love interest, is an absolute darling. Every scene with him in it is a good scene. (They’re also the ones that made me smile the most). His natural charm and easy-going banter with Aubree is just fun to read about. He just finished his freshman year in college and is currently working as a coordinator for his mother, the owner of the tour company. He first “meets” Aubree through a phone call to check up how the tour is going, and hilarity ensues.

The romance itself was definitely adorable, but not tantalizing for me personally. I felt like it lacked depth, despite the heavy issues the characters may converse about. It’s one thing to say “I’ve only known you for eleven days but I like you” and another to actually show it with actions. I think eleven days is enough time to fall in love with someone! (Especially on a tour with such romantic destinations such as Venice and Prague.) But their promises of keeping in contact with each other once they go back to America was quite laughable.

Fifth Destination: The Country of Confusing Climax

What the heck was with that climax? I was so confused when it happened because it was just so OUT of there. Something happens to a certain character that was unexpected and unnecessary. I felt no emotional impact from it and didn’t think it served much of a purpose for the plot or the characters at all.

The resolution flew by like a blur despite all the angst built up throughout the book by all of Aubree’s deception. I found it more realistic than most of the things happening in the book based on human personality alone. I guess a more personal complaint is that I don’t really like it when a book based on lies or deception has a character carry it out for more than necessary. Aubree’s intentions were definitely good though, and her likable voice (despite my sporadic frustration towards her) made it easy to read about her acting as Elizabeth.

“Does it? Do any of my lies make sense?”

Sixth Destination: Development Desert

I think Aubree’s character development was well-done, despite all my other misgivings. You can really see a change from the girl in the beginning of the story to the one near the end.

“I came on this trip not even believing I could get myself across the ocean in one piece, but all that changed.”

I just didn’t enjoy the journey that got her there, and some of the execution that led to her growth (the sister aspect being a large one). Other than that, this was definitely a satisfying destination that will make delight readers.

This was a sweet read with an unrealistic premise but lovable characters with unique personalities and a narrator with a great and easy-to-relate to voice. My own personal experience, however, has made me extremely exasperated with Aubree despite it all. Contemporary readers will definitely enjoy this read! If you’re like me and delve into the genre once in a while, this does provide a rather magical escape from a mundane school/home environment. But just don’t go into it looking for something that will blow your heads off. A big hedgehog plushie of cuteness is all it really gives.


11 thoughts on “Book Review: Wanderlost by Jen Malone

    1. Oh man, I’m so glad I could help you out on that point! It was still enjoyable, but left me empty (like that one discussion we had, hehe). Light, yet fleeting is the way I’d describe it. I really wanted to love this book too, since a lot of readers loved it, but alas. :’)

  1. I love how you write about books that don’t impress you. Hehe. This book sounds like exactly the elements I’m trying to avoid right now. It’s so disappointing to get the end of a book and still not especially care about any of the characters in it.

    You’ve been travelling by yourself since you were so young! I am definitely coming late to the whole travelling thing. I really do want to go on a trip by myself at some point, but I worry about being brave enough.

    1. Don’t worry Lydia, I believe in you! *cheers on the sideline* I’ll be rooting for you whenever you go traveling. 😀

      Oh yes, I love writing reviews in general! I certainly wouldn’t miss out for books that I didn’t like as much (in fact, those are my favorite reviews to write since I can complain/rant a bit, hehe).

      It’s a little necessary for me to travel, since every relative I have basically live in China… which makes it a bit lonely in America with just my immediate family members. 🙂

      1. Haha, thanks! Ohh, I see. It must be hard, having family live so far away. It’s like an hour and a half drive to my gran’s house and yet we always think of it as some massive excursion. Perspective, lol.

        I think sometimes we all need a bit of a rant. It’s fun!

  2. I keep hearing that this book is really cute and adorable. I too am a pretty experienced traveler, so I always cringe when I see people’s ignorance. It makes me shrivel up and cringe inwardly. Like YIKES. But sadly I think it’s a tad realistic, especially since we are ecocentric (is that the term? Ugh freshmen social studies… Basically we think we’re the center of the world and the most important and everyone else should just follow us…)

    The romance sounds adorable, but the lacking sister relationship really bums me out. I can’t wait to meet the other people on the tour and view their vivid personalities in action. I feel like the stories Aubree makes up could be VERY entertaining. Great review, I super love how you had little destinations along the way 😉

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    1. Thanks so much Rachel! ❤

      Oh LOL, you'll probably have similar misgivings about the main character and her cluelessness in the beginning of the story. I'm glad to say that she really grows throughout it all, though! Ooh, I like that mention of ecocentricism (apparently that's not a word lol). I definitely agree with you – sometimes it's easy to forget things and people when we're caught up in our own problems.

      I really wish the sister relationship was developed more! I thought it was a really great setup in the beginning, but alas, it never had the conclusive resolution I was looking for. I can't wait for you to check this one out too!

  3. At first it sounds like a cute&light fluffy read and even though I can get past the clueless behavior of the MC because of the personal growth she has, if I don’t feel like I’m going to experience any emotion/connection with the the ending, then I most likely will pass on it.

    1. Yeah, I totally feel you there Sarah. Sometimes I find contemporaries can be too… fluffy. Almost like there’s no substance in the book, you know? And the character development was so light that it really lessened the impact of the end.

  4. I love books that is about travelling and set in different countries, so this book sounds like my cup of tea. And I don’t know, I always love the old-but-wise-and-also-fun people, they just always being so adorable and my favorites<3 But I'm more a character driven person, so I'm really afraid I would DNF this book because of the MC. I mean, really??? Losing her phone and binder on the first flight? It really shows how unresponsible and ignorant she is… I hope I'll enjoy this one. Great review Aila<3

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