Leila is driving across the country, headed to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. On her way, she meets up with four other teenagers and becomes an integral part of their lives for just a few days—or will it be forever?
Hudson is a mechanic’s son who tunes up Leila’s classic red sedan for the long trip. They go on a treasure hunt together, but Hudson is focused on the next day, when all of his scholarly excellence will be needed during an interview for medical school. Next, Leila meets up with Bree, a free-spirited hitchhiker who instructs Leila in the fine art of shoplifting and grand theft auto. The third person she meets is ’80s film buff, Elliot, who thought his public declaration of love to his best friend would go off like a movie scene, only to find that she really did just want to be friends. In his heartbroken state, Elliot walks into the path of Leila’s oncoming car. The fourth stranger is Sonia, bridesmaid to her dead boyfriend’s sister. Sonia is riddled with guilt because she has fallen in love with another boy only seven months after Sam’s death.
The last section of the book tells Leila’s backstory. Even though we have ridden all the way to Alaska with this girl, we really don’t know much about her. Sometimes she just deflects the conversation to the other person, but sometimes she is an unreliable narrator, and in this last part, we find out that she has her reasons for that. Leila’s father had told her mythological stories about the Northern Lights, and Leila is sure that if she can just see them for herself, all of her life would be put back together.
I love a road trip story, and this book was highly touted at Book Expo America in May. It has garnered starred reviews and high demand. I have to admit that although I liked it, I didn’t love it. Each of the five stories was creative, and the writing was very good overall, but I had a hard time believing some of the plot devices. Is it possible to fall in love in twelve hours? How many people, however depressed, would jump into a car with a perfect stranger and drive across national borders? Several times? The main character herself was difficult to believe. Leila skipped through the book as a combination of Manic Pixie Dream Girl and wise guru, and everyone seemed to invest their full faith and trust in her. How can that be, especially with what we learn about her in the end?
All that being said, and I realize that it’s a lot, the five stories were very enjoyable and fun. Each character is someone worth spending time with, and I look forward to reading more from Adi Alsaid, a young man with a great future in writing.
Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book, obtained at Book Expo America. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.