“The way Mads and Billy Youngwolf Floyd met was horrible, hideous.” While starting the day with a swim in a Seattle Lake, Madison Murray bumps against the body of a woman who ended her life by jumping off a bridge. After such a horrifying moment, how could anything get better? Just hang on for the beautiful parts, beseeches the omniscient narrator in the eloquently crafted Essential Maps for the Lost.
Mads shouldn’t even be at the lake. She should be hanging out with friends back home instead of finishing up high school early, living with relatives and taking real estate courses to take over her narcissistic mother’s business. When she discovers that the body belongs to Billy’s mother, Mads has a new focus: finding out about this depressed woman and following her son.
Billy, who plays his life like the video game “Night Worlds,” has his own secrets, such as carrying the map from the children’s book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which his mother used to read to him. Together, Mads and Billy try to navigate through their losses—and, eventually, first love. But even love is hard when there isn’t a map.
This seemingly quiet story becomes increasingly nuanced as Mads and Billy’s lives run parallel and intersect in shared dreams. This look at uncharted territories of the heart is a real find.