First up, to maintain integrity, you need to know that the author of the book I’m reviewing this week is Better Reading’s very own Jane Tara. For those of you who also follow the adult page, Jane writes lifestyle pieces and often hosts the What Are You Reading Facebook Live segment. She’s also an author, with a number of novels and dozens of kids’ books under her belt. So, it was with a mix of emotions I read the first two novels in her new series for teens, The Lost Girls. I was looking forward to reading her book… but what if I didn’t like it?
Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem. You can read a review of Book 1 – Fish out of Water here.
The Lost Girls series is about five friends who go travelling together after completing the HSC. It’s a series that shows that travel isn’t just about external geography, but that the journey is internal too. Each of the characters is experiencing a profound inner journey as they discover who they are as young adults, free from school, and at the cusp of the rest of their lives.
Off the Map (book 2) focusses on Hana. Hana is French. Actually, she’s Australian-Japanese. She just chooses to be French, and she has waited her whole life to visit the city of her dreams. Paris! She has a love of interior design and has always seen Paris as her spiritual homeland. She’ll arrive there, feel completely at home, meet a wonderful French guy… and life will be grand.
But for Hana and her friends, Paris becomes the stuff of nightmares with everything going wrong from the moment they arrive.
Enter Drago, the gorgeous Slovenian guy they keep bumping into. Drago hears about their run of bad luck and invites them to stay in his family’s hotel in Slovenia. But for Hana, there are two problems with this:
Firstly, Ljubljana isn’t Paris…
And… Drago is not French.
Hana is outvoted by her friends, who think an unplanned Slovenian adventure will be the best way to salvage their trip. So she finds herself in a country she didn’t even know existed, with a guy who might just be everything she ever wanted, learning the greatest lesson of her life… Sometimes you need to travel off your map to find what you’re looking for.
While you can read Off the Map as a standalone, it’s best to read book 1 in the series first, as you really do go on a journey with these girls. Hana is a wonderful character and her romance with the charming Drago is lovely. Her journey is about letting go of expectations, and of going with the flow in life. You can’t control everything.
In this book the girls travel from Paris to Ljubljana and then to Lake Bled, and once again the destinations are vividly drawn. Hana’s journey is interwoven with some backstory with her parents – she’s carrying some heartache that travelling (and growing up) calls for her to address. There is also tension brewing between her and Frankie, around Frankie’s social media usage. As in Fish out of Water, Off the Map deals with many teen and young adult issues, calling for the characters to deal with them as they travel – showing that a journey is never just external and that baggage is not just the suitcase you’re carrying.
Off the Map is another excellent read for teens 14+, in this wonderful series about friendship and self-discovery.
Jane Tara is the author of five novels and over eighty children’s books, many written under the name Jane Hinchey. She’s an award-winning playwright and travel writer, published in dozens of magazines around the world. An avid traveller, she has lived in Tokyo, London, Vienna, New York and various parts of Australia. She currently lives in Bondi Beach, Sydney, with her two sons. Jane’s new series The Lost Girls merges her love of contemporary YA and travel. She can be contacted via her website or Facebook. You can also find her on instagram at @RUALostGirl