When We Were Lost by Kevin Wignall

I’m a fan of Kevin Wignall. I believe I have read all of his books (even those under the KJ Wignall moniker). But as faithful readers will know, I haven’t been the most dedicated book blogger of late (heck, for a while). So gone are the days of offers of advanced reader copies and author interviews and instead I live in the world of request books from the library (Ok, with some exceptions).

All this is to say, after some procrastination, and failing to win the Goodreads giveaway, I finally got ahold of a copy of his latest novel When We Were Lost and read it. It is a young adult mystery/thriller put out under the James Patterson imprint:

Survival. It’s a concept these high school students never had to consider–until their plane crashes in a remote rainforest with no adults left alive. With many of them falling prey to threats from both the jungle and man, they soon realize that danger comes in many sinister forms.

Tom Calloway didn’t want to go on a field trip to Costa Rica, but circumstances had him ending up sitting in the back of the plane–which was the only part that was intact after the crash in the remote South American wilderness. Tom and a small group of his classmates are fortunate to be alive, but their luck quickly runs out when some of them fall prey to the unfamiliar threats of the jungle–animals, reptiles, insects, and even the unforgiving heat. Every decision they make could mean life or death.

As the days go by and the survivors’ desperation grows, things get even more perilous. Not everyone can cope with the trauma of seeing their friends die, and a struggle for leadership soon pits them against each other. And when they come across evidence of other people in the middle of the rainforest, does that mean they’re safe–or has their survival come to an even more vicious end?

Put aside any bias my relationship with the euphoniously named Mr. Wignall, this was another one where I struggled with the star rating (give us half stars Goodreads!).

I enjoyed this book and found its plot quite interesting but its simplicity almost seemed to undermine its power. In the end I went with four stars because it made me want to keep reading and the creative nature of the story. There isn’t a great deal of depth to the characters, although you learn about Tom by seeing the experience through his eyes and in backstory shared along the way. What powers the story is a very basic idea: what would I do if I was in this situation? Put in incredible circumstances practically every decision has real consequences. Watching this play out under the heightened tension of a teen leadership battle allows the reader to explore their reactions and instincts along with Tom and the other kids.

I wish I cold get my teenager daughter to read it and tell me what she thinks because as is often the case it is hard to judge sometimes when you are not the target audience.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read. Adventure, mystery, danger, and teenage angst and personalities all play a role. Wignall’s butterfly effect intro and outro even give it a philosophical spin. Very different from the early amoral contract killer stories that introduced me to his writing but different in a good way I think.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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