Where I live, the temperatures and humidity are climbing these days, leaving me feeling a bit bedraggled and wilted. Weather like this prompts a strong nostalgia in me for one of my favorite TV shows, Lost, both because I feel as humidity-drenched as they all look on the island, and because the heat saps my energy, so I need a book with a hook strong enough to generate its own page-turning momentum, the way Lost expertly hooked me with truly bizarre discoveries, goosebump-causing unexplained phenomena, and never-quite-enough tidbits of the characters’ lives before the crash.
While I can never go back to the jaw-dropping, melodramatic delights of viewing Lost for the very first time, I can, and do, regularly seek out reading materials that will deliver that same tantalizing mix of survival, conspiracy, flashback storytelling with globetrotting locales, a diverse and varied cast of secret-keeping characters, and developments so strange I actually say, â€œWhat?!â€ out loud. The books in the following list all offered one or many of those factors.
MIND MGMT Vol. 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt – Perhaps an obvious pick, given that Lost producer Damon Lindelof loved this so much he wrote the foreword, and that Kindt has given Lost a very direct nod by numbering the â€œlostâ€ flight in his story 815. It’s supposed to appeal to Lost fans. But just because a thing is supposed to appeal doesn’t always mean it hits its mark. Imagine my delight then, to be promised by Lindelof that I was in for just the kind of wild ride Lost used to deliver so reliably, and then to have the book in my hand actually take me on just such a ride. This is one of those plots that keeps unfolding to reveal new layers, introducing new characters, and feeding you information from the past and the present without ever explaining anything fully (so just resign yourself to a degree of uncertainty about everything). MIND MGMT Vol. 1 was one of 2014’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the graphic format here really served the fragmented storytelling; what was going on in the frames could be saying one thing, and then the frame itself could say something else entirely, and the reader could follow the action through many places and time periods very quickly with a few key visual cues. The best part, for me, of discovering this bizarre (and, fair warning, violent) world; it’s an ongoing series.
Lexicon by Max Barry – A 2014 Alex Award winner, this is not one to start if you have to be anywhere anytime soon. From page one, high-voltage action sequences interspersed with backstory-building flashbacks to firmly establish a network of characters all connected by some far-reaching organization which may or may not be benign (and isn’t that the best kind of far-reaching organization, really?). My favorite Lost-like element here were the very conflicted, tender, human moments anchoring and connecting the breathlessly-paced action (again, heads up; parts of this were pretty violent). My other favorite Lost-like element? Not being sure who the real villain(s) were. Plus, bonus points for the insane-but-I’ll-go-with-it premise: mind control.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick – Do they count as narrative flashbacks if the story is essentially being told backwards? Probably not, but this year’s Michael L. Printz Award winner is a veritable head trip of recurring themes, symbols, gestures, phrases, and characters, and the whole thing takes place on a mysterious island where time might not be behaving exactly like it’s supposed to, and communication with the rest of the world is forgotten, or possibly forbidden. So many Lost-like factors, and yet this book creates an atmosphere entirely its own. The language is precise and evocative, and no one seems entirely trustworthy, or entirely bad.
Rust series by Royden Lepp – This graphic novel series unfolds at a less breakneck pace than many of the other titles listed here, but it’s a deliberate, slow-burning kind of parade of discovery for the reader (and, they’re graphic novels, so â€œless breakneckâ€ is still pretty fast). Everything is laid out in gorgeous sepia inks which make the sci-fi elements feel rooted in real history, presented as they are in the shades of old photographs. The Rust series is focused on a relatively small cast of characters, but they are richly drawn with nuanced emotional details and complex relationships. A 2014’s Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens (volume 2, Secrets of the Cell), many of the best moments here echo some of my favorite Lost scenes because they prompted the response in my head, â€œbut that’s impossible.â€
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane – If only the island on Lost had had a well-stocked bookstore, maybe they all could have just settled in to castaway living a little easier? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is pretty different from Lost, tone-wise; it’s told in the first person, so we only get one character’s perspective, it’s not particularly violent (refreshing!), and the mystery is constantly unfolding ahead of us, so no flashbacks. But! This allows the plot to push forward steadily, gaining momentum with every new development, and at every turn the scope broadens even as the threads of the mystery become more intricately woven. This won an Alex Award in 2013.
Whether you’re a die-hard Lost fan or you just enjoy unexplained occurrences and vaguely untrustworthy characters peppering your reading, I hope you find something from this list to help you forget the heat for a few hours; let me know in the comments which other titles give you that delicious, wide-eyed, Lost-like feeling!
-Carly Pansulla, currently reading This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki