March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Everyone’s Talking About ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and Debut Author Adi Alsaid

Let's Get LostAdi Alsaid’s debut novel Let’s Get Lost is a beautifully written story about five strangers and their different experiences with love, loss, and finding themselves along the way. It brings to mind the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” School Library Journal’s review of the novel describes it as “an achingly beautiful story about the profound impacts of opening oneself to a stranger” and goes on to say, “Reminiscent of John Green’s Paper Towns (Dutton, 2008) and road trip novels that feature a teen paving the way to adulthood, Alsaid’s debut is a gem among contemporary YA novels.”

SLJTeen columnist and SLJ reviewer Donna Rosenblum recently caught up with Adi Alsaid by telephone, and here is what he had to say.

What was your inspiration for Let’s Get Lost and its many themes?

The idea for a road map/traveling story was inspired by my own road trips and desire to see many destinations and places around the country. I have taken two cross-country trips west to east, and will be doing another trip this summer.

The road trip helps the reader see the bigger picture and to get to know the main protagonist, Leila, through the multiple perspectives of the different characters she meets along the way. I like getting into strangers’ heads and then think about how they would perceive a person or an event so that is exactly what I did.

Adi AlsaidMany authors say they write about what and who they know. Are your characters in Let’s Get Lost based on family or friends?

The characters in my novel are all imagined, but some of their mannerisms or things that they do are based on myself or people in my life. For example, in one scene from the book, Leila puts her toes on the windshield. That was something my ex-girlfriend used to do. And Elliott’s unrequited love is sort of me in my high school days.

Have you been to places mentioned in the novel?

No, I have not been to the exact places in the novel. I did reference Google Maps but wanted the flexibility to make my own story and not be confined by specific details.

Actually, in between drafts of the book, I visited a friend in the Twin Cities and there is a scene where Leila and Elliot are pushing the car along the road and the Minneapolis skyline is in the background. I got this image by Googling Burnsville, Minnesota, so we drove all around until we found the exact spot where this image was taken.

Wow that is pretty cool. Do you think you would like to visit the places in the book someday?

I definitely want to see the Northern Lights as well as Alaska and Kansas City.

All the characters in your novel are unique and memorable—do you have a favorite or is there one or two in particular that you identify with most?

I certainly can’t pick a favorite, but there are little pieces of me in all of the characters in the novel. I probably relate most to Elliot from my teenage days, but I also share Bree’s desire to get up and go out on her own with no plan in mind. Sonia tells how her dead boyfriend used to clean the soles of his basketball shoes and I do that, and how she listens for words in murmuring crowds, and I do that too.

There are many themes that run through Let’s Get Lost, most notably loss, love, and finding one’s way back. Why do you think teens relate to these themes and your novel?

I think teens relate not only to the general coming-of-age aspect throughout the novel, but also the different variations on this theme in each individual story. There is a certain appeal to these type of stories, especially for me personally, and it is something everyone can all relate to in one way or another. It is a time in your life when you are trying to figure out who you are, where you are going, what the future will bring, and what your life will ultimately be like.

Let’s Get Lost is you first novel and yet you have been compared to some well-known writers, including John Green. How do you feel about that?

I am completely flattered by this, especially when I hear my name and his in the same sentence—it is just overwhelming. We have similarities in our writing, most notably the mixing of humor and emotional issues throughout the storyline.

Will there be a companion novel or a sequel to Let’s Get Lost? If not, what else is in the works?

I don’t see it happening right now, but you never know. I did just turn in my first draft of my next work, which is a standalone contemporary young adult story with multiple perspectives set in a high school, but that is all I am going to say about it. I am a bit secretive of the story for now.

Last question: Did you always want to be a writer?

Donna Rosenblum hard at work.

Interviewer Donna Rosenblum hard at work.

I have been writing little short stories, most that I never finished, since the age of 11 or 12. It was always something I loved so it was continually a thought was in the back of my mind. But I decided to attend business school, figuring that I would need to earn a living in order to pursue my dream of writing. But things just happened more quickly than I ever planned and I am so lucky that Harlequin believed in me and has done so much to market Let’s Get Lost. I certainly never expected to be a successful writer at this stage of my life. I am just so grateful.

Click here for a bonus interview of Adi and Roger Sutton of The Horn Book!

Donna Rosenblum is a longtime SLJ reviewer and a librarian at Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School.

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