Essential Maps for the Lost begins when Madison Murray is swimming in Lake Union in Seattle, and bumps into the body of a woman who jumped off the nearby Aurora Bridge. In order to understand her own depression, she begins to follow the young woman’s son, Billy Youngwolf Floyd, and their lives begin to intersect. She has an overbearing mother, and a deep desire to kidnap the baby she babysits (who has her own overbearing mother). He has an intense and sometimes cruel grandmother, and a deep desire to steal mistreated dogs (a desire he often fulfills, stealing them and then bringing them to the shelter where he works, claiming that they are “lost.”) Billy and Mads have another surprising similarity – a connection to the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and to the map of the Metropolitan Museum of Art inside it.
What inspired me to write it? At the time I began, there had recently been several suicides of public figures, and even an author in our YA community. There had also been many, many blog posts about mental illness and depression, especially from fellow YA writers. And while it is hugely important to talk about these things openly, hugely, hugely important, I also felt a little in need of hope after reading them. I wanted to discuss the struggle, but also the beauty in the struggle – the complicated, messy, hard, triumphant, hang-in-there-ness of it. Being a human being in a big world is a tough job a lot of the time, but it’s good to remember the triumphs and the joys, small and large, that come along with the “tough.”
I’d also been hearing, seeing, and feeling a lot about the kids who end up in the position of having to care for their parents, who emotionally must take on the parental role in their relationship with an adult in their life. I wanted to spend some time thinking and writing about this – what it means to have to erect boundaries and hear your own voice when neither of those things was ever really allowed.
And, finally, I wanted to talk about book love some more – the power of books. I’d already done a little of this in both Honey, Baby, Sweetheart and The Last Forever, but I didn’t feel finished yet. Books have always been life saving to me, and I wanted to pay respect to the way they help us through, guide us, provide understanding, and last over time. Books are powerful magic.
These three things wove together to become Essential Maps for the Lost. These three things plus love, plus Seattle, plus houseboats and dogs and bratty ten-year-olds and beaches and burritos and despair and joy and complications, lots of them. “I like complications,” says Mads, and Billy, and E.L. Konigsberg, author of From the Mixed-Up Files. After reading Essential Maps for the Lost, I hope you do, too.
About The Book
When Madison makes a startling discovery, the body of a dead woman floating in the middle of a lake, the summer after her senior year becomes more complicated than she ever expected.
Madison (Mads to everyone who knows her) is staying with her aunt and uncle in Seattle after graduating from high school. Being away from her needy, unstable mother who’s been pressuring her to take over the family business is such a relief. Now all Mads has to worry about is taking classes, swimming laps, and fighting off the sadness that threatens to overtake her.
That is, until the traumatic moment Mads collides with a body in the middle of the lake. After swimming the body back to shore, Mads becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the woman and what drove her to leap off of the Aurora Bridge. Determined to discover more, Mads parks outside the woman’s home and sees the woman’s son: the sweet and tormented Billy Youngwolf Floyd.
Through a series of not-so-happenstance meetings, Mads and Billy realize that desperate mothers and rescue missions are not the only thing that bonds them. Billy carries a map in his pocket; the one of the museum from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and it’s his dream to visit the museum one day. And though book-loving Mads is expected to return home to her already-decided future, her dream is to run away to a life of her choosing.
As the unlikely pair fall hard for each other and as the summer draws to a close, Billy and Mads must decide whose story to follow: their family’s or their own.
About The Author
Deb Caletti is an award winning author and National Book Award finalist. Her many books for young adults include “The Nature of Jade,” “Stay,” “The Last Forever,” and “Honey, Baby Sweetheart,” winner of the Washington State Book award, the PNBA Best Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award. Her first book for adults, “He’s Gone,” was released from Random House in 2012, and was followed with “The Secrets She Keeps” in 2015. Coming this April: “Essential Maps for the Lost,” her eleventh book for young adults. She lives with her family in Seattle.
3 Finished Copies of ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST (US Only)