To me, a three-day camping trip in the middle of the woods sounds like a nightmare under the best of circumstances. But in One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards, Sera’s senior experience field trip takes a far more sinister turn when she and three of her classmates wake up to find that someone has drugged them, been in their tents, destroyed their things, and left ominous messages written on their skin. Just reading the premise of this book, I knew it was going to be the kind of thing to keep me up at night.
Deceptive. Damaged. Dangerous. Darling. These are the words that Jude, Emily, Lucas, and Sera wake up to find written on their arms in permanent marker. The words are creepy enough, but the four teens soon realize that they must have been drugged to sleep through the night, and that their teacher chaperone has been given a far stronger dose and won’t be waking up to help them any time soon. With no food, no water, no cell phones, and no authority figure, getting out of the woods seems like an impossible task. It doesn’t help that the four outcasts don’t trust each other can’t seem to agree on anything. But they have to learn to put their differences aside when they realize that whoever did this to them is still out there, and isn’t done with them yet. What was supposed to be a fun, character-building camping trip soon turns into a race for their lives as the teens try to escape the forest while piecing together clues about their stalker.
One Was Lost has quite an unusual and diverse cast of characters for a horror story. Jude is the black adopted son of a white gay couple, and he’s ostracized at school partly because of homophobia and partly because his wealth and aloofness give him a reputation as a snob. But mostly, he has an aura of mystery because he refuses to answer the prying questions of his peers about his own sexuality—hence his label, Deceptive. Emily has a troubled home life and starts off the novel shy and skittish—Damaged, their stalker thinks. But she shows surprising strength and tenderness when faced with human suffering in the forest. Then there’s Lucas, a big, brawny kid who made a reputation for himself when he sent another boy to the hospital during his last sports game. His label says it all, he’s dangerous—and absolutely the last person Sera should be developing feelings for. The point-of-view character is Sera, a Lebanese American whose one passion is the theater. Whatever’s happening in the woods, it seems to be aimed at Sera, since the stalker calls her Darling.
What was fun about this book was that apart from being a genuinely scary horror story, it was also a cute YA romance. Sera starts off the novel in big denial about her crush. She kissed Lucas at the cast party last summer, but has spent the months since then trying to forget that fact. Sera’s been wary of romance ever since her flighty mother ran off to “follow her heart.” Not to mention, that being trapped in a forest with a potential murderer on the loose is probably not the best time to get entangled with a boy known for being dangerous. But Sera eventually lets her walls come down as her fear of turning into her mother is overshadowed by the far greater fear that they won’t be making it out of the forest alive.
This book was an enjoyable, quick-paced horror tale to start my summer off with, and I recommend it if you enjoy both survival horror and YA romance. If you’re interested, check out the IndieBound affiliate link below, and be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments!