Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst was not what I expected it to be; it was much more. When I first picked up this book at the library book sale a few years ago I thought it was simply a mother- daughter story. Mother and daughter go on reality show in the hopes it will strengthen their bond. That is all I expected. What I actually found was a fun page turner that explores all the behind the scenes craziness of a fictional reality television show.
Laura and Cassie are the mother-daughter pairing. Cassie is seventeen-years-old and has just had a very challenging year; Laura has had some significant changes herself and so has missed some of Cassie's struggles. In typical teenage fashion, Laura annoys Cassie; and in typical mother-of-a-teenager fashion, Laura is trying so hard to hold on before her little girl flies the nest. But Laura and Cassie aren't the only interesting pairing on this show: first there are Wendy and Jillian, middle-aged flight attendants who actually aren't particularly interesting; Carl and Jeff, funny brothers; Justin and Abby, oh boy do they have a good story; Juliet and Dallas, former child stars; Riley and Trent, genius inventors; and Betsy and Jason, high-school sweethearts who are recently reunited. As in any reality show universe, these couples were picked for their stories and for the possibility of conflict.
The premise of the show, entitled Lost and Found, is that the contestants are on a scavenger hunt. They search for objects all over the world and then have to carry those objects for the remainder of the game. The host's question to each team as they are eliminated is "You've lost the game, but what have you found?" Sure, it's cheesy, but just the right about of cheese for a reality show. This book contains all of the sleazy, disgusting tactics that you would expect to happen behind the scenes on a reality show: they manipulate the players by planting things they know will upset the contestants in hopes they will have a mental break down and talk about something that will increase their ratings, they deprive them of sleep to weaken their resolve to not lose it on camera, and of course they give every indication that the editing will be done in such a way as to not show anyone in their best light. It is everything I hate about reality TV because you know it's happening, but you can't actually see it. In this case, the characters are mostly decent human beings, mostly, but you can see how the producers will spin it. The reader is given a chance to root against the show itself.
I really liked this book. It was captivating and I was never ready to put it down. There were characters I really cared about and others that I didn't particularly like at all. The interesting thing is that even the character I hated the most, there were times when I felt sorry for that character when he or she was being manipulated. I also loved reading about some of the locations the characters visited. I added several locations to my travel list, including this bridge between Sweden and Denmark:
How cool would it be to drive over that?!
This was a fun book and I hope you'll give it a try. It would be perfect to read as we head into vacation season. Maybe it will give you a little wanderlust of your own.