The Lost

The Lost

by Sarah Beth Durst


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Brilliantly riveting. * Thought-provoking and stirring. **

Award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst has been praised for her captivating novels that merge the darkly imagined with very real themes of self-discovery and destiny. In The Lost, we'll discover just what it means to lose one's way….

It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassible dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing—and what she's running from—before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found….

Against the backdrop of this desolate and mystical town, Sarah Beth Durst writes an arresting, fantastical novel of one woman's impossible journey…and her quest to find her fate.

*Booklist, starred review, for Vessel

**Kirkus Reviews, starred review, for Vessel

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778317111
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 05/27/2014
Edition description: Original
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 803,991
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of YA novels Conjured, Vessel, Drink Slay Love, Enchanted Ivy, and Ice, as well as middle grade novels Into the Wild and Out of the Wild. She was awarded the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award three times. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and children. The Lost, The Missing, and The Found are Sarah's first novels for adults.

Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

For the first hundred miles, I see only the road and my knuckles, skin tight across the bones, like my mother's hands, as I clutch the steering wheel. For the second hundred miles, I read the highway signs without allowing the letters to compute in my brain. Exit numbers. Names of towns. Places that people call home, or not. After three hundred miles, I start to wonder what the hell I'm doing.

In front of me, the highway lies straight, a thick rope of asphalt that stretches to a pinprick on the horizon. On either side of the highway are barbed-wire fences that hem in the few cows that wander through the scrub-brush desert. Cacti are clustered by the fence posts. Above, the sun has bleached the blue until the sky looks like fabric stretched so thin that it's about to tear. There are zero clouds.

I should turn around.

Instead, I switch on the radio. Static. For a moment, I let the empty crackle of noise spray over me, a match to my mood, but then it begins to feel like prickles inside my ears. Also, I begin to feel self-consciously melodramatic. Maybe as a sixteen-year-old, I'd have left the static on, but I'm twenty-seven. I change the station. Again, static. And again. Again.

First option: an apocalypse has wiped out all the radio transmitters.

Second, much more likely, option: my car radio is broken.

Switching the radio off, I drive to the steady thrum of the car engine and the hiss of wind through the cracked-open window. I wanted the radio so I wouldn't have to think. I listen to the wind instead and try to keep my mind empty.

I won't think.

I won't worry.

I won't scream.

The wind feels like a snake's hot breath as it coils through the car. It smells of dust and exhaust. All in all, though, it's not so bad. The palms of my hands feel slick and sweaty from the steering wheel, but otherwise, I feel like I could drive for hours…and hours and hours until the car runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere and I slowly die of dehydration while the cows lick the remaining moisture from my limp body.

That would make for a humiliating obituary.

Half my funeral audience would consist of family and friends, a few aunts and uncles I'd never met, neighbors who had never spoken to me (except to complain about how I always parked my car askew), friends I'd meant to have lunch with… The other half would be heifers.

Great plan, Lauren, I tell myself. All of this…very well thought-out. Kudos. I have no reason to be out here on Route 10, three hundred miles east of home. No rational reason at all, except that I am sick to death of rational—of facts, of hospitals, of test results with predictions that feel as cold and impersonal as the expiration date on a gallon of milk.

I keep driving as the sun sears its way toward dusk. Sinking lower, it blazes in the rearview mirror until I blink over and over. Soon, the sun will set. Soon, Mom will return from her doctor's appointment. She'll try to pretend it's a normal day: set the table, lay out extra napkins, switch on the TV for the PBS NewsHour, and wait for me to come home with our favorite burritos—our Tuesday-night tradition.

I haven't eaten since breakfast. Burritos would be nice. Seeing Mom.I don't know.

Glancing at my cell phone, I see it has zero bars. Next town, I promise myself. I'll call Mom and ask about the new test results. Just ask. It might be fine. False alarm. Silly me for worrying so much. She'll laugh; I'll laugh. After that, I'll call work and claim I was sick, perhaps toss in a colorful description of vomit. I'll say that I've been glued to the toilet all day. No one ever questions a vomit excuse. Then I'll fill up the tank, and I'll drive back and celebrate the false alarm with Mom.

It's a decent plan, except that I don't see a next town.

I scan the highway for signs. Speed Limit 75. Watch for Deer. Littering $500. With the road so straight and flat, I should see at least the silhouette of an exit sign. But I don't see any exits at all, either behind or before me.

It's an endless highway. There will never be an exit. Or a turn. Or a hill or a valley or a bridge… I know I saw signs at some point in the past hour or so. I remember looking at them; I don't remember what they said. I'm not even positive what state I'm in. Arizona, I'd guess. Possibly New Mexico. I don't think Texas yet.

It is strange that there aren't other vehicles on the road.

I watch the wind swirl over the highway as the sun stains the sky a rosy orange. The low light makes the desert earth look red, and the asphalt glistens like black jewels. It's a wide highway, two lanes in either direction, and except for me, they are empty.

I should see some cars. A few tourists with kids in a minivan, off to see the Grand Canyon or visit Grandma in Albuquerque. A pickup truck with a bed full of rusted junk, shotgun rack in the back. Maybe a motorcyclist with bugs in his mustache.

Or maybe there really has been an apocalypse.

Dust blows across the highway, and dried weeds impale themselves on the barbed-wire fence. I'd feel better if at least one truck would barrel past me. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel faster, faster, and the needle on the odometer creeps higher like the needle of a blood pressure gauge on the arm of a stressed patient. I need to find a town soon.

As the sun dips lower, shadows stretch long from the setting sun. The fence post shadows cut stripes in the red dust. A man in a black coat perches on one of the fence posts.

Leaning forward, I stare over the steering wheel, as if those few extra inches will help me see the man clearer. He's a quarter mile away, and his coat blows in the wind like a superhero cape. I can't see his face.

Closer…it's a mesquite tree with a cloth caught in its branches. I lean back as I pass the tree. It's leafless and twisted, half-dead, with dried thorns that have captured a strip of black fabric. For an instant, it was something uneasy and beautiful.

Ahead, the highway is blotted out by dark dust, as if a dirty cloud drifted onto the road. "Real estate changing hands," Mom said once of dust storms. "If I wait long enough, the wind will send me a swimming pool and a fully planted vegetable garden."

"You have an ocean twenty minutes away. You never swim in it."

"I could be mauled by a sea lion," Mom said. "And when was the last time you swam in the ocean? I used to have to haul you out of the water kicking and screaming at the end of summer."

I remember that, those summers when I'd be so waterlogged that I'd feel like driftwood when I washed into the start of the school year. I'd spend the year drying until I was light and brittle. "I blame the sea lions," I told my mother. "Vicious things."

This storm is more like a smear of dust than any sort of storm. It has no energy or power or movement. It looks as if a painter slapped bland reddish tan across the blue, black and red of the sky, highway and desert. I tell myself that dust storms like this are common out here. The few bushes and cacti can't hold the parched dirt onto the cracked earth, and it rises up with the wind. But common or not, coming now, it only adds to the sense of surreal aloneness. I'd write a poem about it…

Desert dust. Alone, she drives into the earth that gravity lost—

Except that I don't write poetry. And besides, I'm driving to escape my feelings, not wallow in them. Unfortunately, I seem to have packed all my emotional baggage for this impromptu road trip.

Rolling up the window, I silence the hiss of wind. I only hear the whoosh and hum of the car itself. I fiddle with the radio again. Still static. And I drive into the cloud of dust.

It is as dark as if the sun has instantly plunged beneath the horizon. I switch on my headlights and illuminate the swath of reddish tan in front of me. It glows but remains opaque. I can see a few yards of pavement plus a few feet on the side of the highway. Ghostlike, a fence post appears in the dust and then disappears. Another and then another appear and then vanish at regular intervals, as if marking time in a timeless place.

It feels as if the rest of the world has disappeared. It feels almost peaceful—and also as if I am in my own apocalypse.

I'd like to think if I were to invent my own apocalypse, it would be more colorful. Brilliant chartreuse horsemen of the apocalypse trampling the earth beneath their hooves, while the earth bleeds green into the sea… All the screams would rise up at once in a cacophony that sends the birds to blacken the sky with their wings, and the mythical snake (or dragon or whatever) that wraps its coils around the world would squeeze at the same time that the turtle that supports the earth would flip, and the resulting earthquakes would disgorge a thousand monsters to prey on the survivors… Yeah, that would be much cooler than dull tan. Also, messier.

Real apocalypses happen in clean, white rooms, delivered in long words by men and women with kind eyes and sterile scrubs. Or by a woman who is both your best friend and your mother over crab rangoon and spare ribs or a burrito.

It's harder and harder to see the pavement. I peer through the windshield and hope I'm still in my lane. At least no one else is on the road. I don't have to worry about crashing into an eighteen-wheeler or a motorcyclist who can't see any better than I can. I slow to a crawl just in case.

My headlights catch the silhouette of a person.

I slam on the brakes.

Tires squeal.

The car jolts to a stop.

There is no person. I stare into the empty dust. Overactive imagination, I tell myself. I've been the victim of an overactive imagination for years, ever since I was a kid with my blanket tucked up to my chin, staring at the shadowed shapes in my bedroom, trying to convince myself that the shapes weren't ten-armed monsters, men with axes, rabid rats or the kid from my junior high who liked to draw nightmarish cartoons of women's parts in his math textbook.

There is no way a person would be wandering down this highway in the middle of a dust storm this far from the nearest town. I focus on the dotted white lines that divide the lanes and follow them as if they're bread crumbs leading me through a forest.

Again, I see him.

This time, he is directly in front of me. Yanking on the steering wheel, I swerve right. I feel the tires run off the road and hit dirt. I yank the wheel left, and the car jumps back onto the road.

I look in my rearview mirror. Still standing in the road, the man is dressed in a black trench coat that falls to his ankles. Beneath the coat he wears black jeans and is bare-chested. His chest is decorated in a swirl of black feather tattoos, and he is almost unbearably beautiful. I slam on the brakes again.

When I look in the rearview mirror this time, he is gone.

That's it, I tell myself. No more horror movies. Ever.

Concentrating on the road directly in front of me, I drive and drive and drive. By the time I emerge from the dust cloud, it is night. The car clock says 8:34. Stars speckle the sky, and a full moon has risen low and fat over the desert. I loosen my grip on the steering wheel and roll my shoulders back until my shoulder blades crackle. I look behind me again—and the dust cloud has vanished. The road stretches endlessly back, clear and empty.

I wish there were someone else with me to verify that the dust had existed, to confirm the man had existed. But if someone else were with me, I would have turned around before I'd even left Los Angeles. I would have taken that left at the light like I did every day and I'd have parked in the office parking lot and later returned home by the same snarl of highways. I wouldn't have driven straight for no reason other than I was afraid of the possibility of bad news.

I glance again at my cell phone. Still no bars.

I check my gas gauge. Low but not empty. Stretching my neck, I try to relax.

New plan: find a town, stop for dinner, maybe check into a motel for the night, and drive back in daylight when I'm not so wrung out that I imagine bare-chested tattooed men inside dust storms. Mom will understand. She'll probably understand better than I want her to. I'll call from the motel room and explain that her daughter's a coward with an overactive imagination, and she'll tell me…

She'll tell me how much time she has left.

In less than a mile, I spot an exit. It's unmarked but paved. It must lead to a town. Taking it, I find myself on a one-lane highway. A few minutes later, I see a sign.

The sign is carved wood, like an old-fashioned New England town welcome sign. Faded blue paint peels around its curved edges. My headlights sweep over golden lettering that reads: Welcome to Lost.

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The Lost 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Lauren is not one for impulse, sticking to what she knows needs to be done. But with her mother dying from cancer she cannot take it any longer, she gets in her car and just drives. She finds herself in the middle of a small town that has seen better days. She decides to stay the night and return to her life in the morning. But then she finds that she cannot leave. She is in Lost along with other people and things that have been lost. There are a variety of people, strange children, and random luggage that are scattered throughout the town. But then the town’s people turns on her. The Missing Man has disappeared and they blame Lauren for it. But when Claire and Peter come to her aid it looks like Lauren may have found a place for herself. She may have a reason to stay in Lost. At first I didn’t like Lauren, she just bothered me. But the more you learn about her, you can’t help feeling for her. I mean we all have times and events that it’s hard to deal with and you just want to escape. I have to say that I didn’t like most of the people in Lost. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kids but you can tell their time in Lost has corrupted them. This is a good story. It is a little slow so you do have to work through it as Lauren does. But it is one that I would recommend you read it. I received The Lost a long time ago for free in exchange for an honest review.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Twenty-seven-year-old Lauren Chase has lost a lot of things over the years: one turquoise earring, several friends and their respective contact information, her favorite stuffed animal Mr. Rabbit. More recently Lauren has lost her way. It wasn't supposed to be a permanent thing. All Lauren did was go straight, avoiding the left turn that would have taken her down the road to work and a whole world of bad news. Instead of a short drive away from her troubles, Lauren drives into Lost. All lost things end up in the town of Lost. Luggage. Pennies. Socks. People. Theoretically, Lauren can leave. All she has to do is find what she lost. In reality, no one in town wants to help her except for a mysterious, gorgeous man called the Finder and a six-year-old with a knife and a princess dress. Together the three of them might be able to survive Lost. But Lauren still has a mother to get back to, a life to reclaim while she decided if being lost can really lead to finding something more important in The Lost (2014) by Sarah Beth Durst. The Lost is the first book in Durst's first trilogy written for an adult audience. The story will continue in The Missing and The Found. Durst once again delivers an amazingly evocative world in this fantasy story. Lost is a horrible, desert town filled with junk and danger. Readers will feel Lauren's growing claustrophobic panic as she tries repeatedly to get back to her real life. The story unfolds nicely, with only a few slow spots, as Lauren comes into her own in Lost and makes a tentative place for herself with a couple of fellow misfits. The bulk of the book focuses on Lauren but secondary characters like the girl with the knife and the Finder are welcome additions to this motley cast. Although readers do not need to be told quite so many times that the Finder is very attractive, his other charms do come through. The Lost happily also includes a thread with Lauren's mother. Although not always the happiest sub-plot, it was nice to see a parental relationship feature in this book when, so often, protagonists exist in a strange familial vacuum. Plot twists and surprises abound in the final hundred pages as The Lost builds to a surprising finish. Readers may be surprised by the non-ending at the conclusion of this book, but it will only make them all the more eager for the next installment in this clever trilogy. Possible Pairings: The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Hughesms More than 1 year ago
The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst  Theme: Finding yourself  Genre: Science Fiction  Twenty-seven year old Lauren is juggling work and time to take care of her terminally-ill mother who is battling cancer. Instead of going the usual way to work, she keeps driving straight just to be alone before she has to deal with the doctors telling her more bad news about her mother. After a while of driving, Lauren's car breaks down in the middle of a dust storm. She waits until the storm to pass to fix the car. While she is waiting, she sees a mysterious man in the dust storm! He pushes her car all the way to a town called Lost in the middle of a desolate desert. She does not know that this town is called Lost for a reason. This is where you go if you lost something meaningful to you. The only way out is to find your missing object of importance. The only person who can find your object for you is the Missing Man. Soon Lauren comes face to face with the Missing Man. He asks her, her name. She tells him but to her astonishment he turns around and flees the town of Lost. Now the townspeople hate her and chase her out of town. She meets a little girl named Claire. Claire isn’t your ordinary six-year old girl. She knows how to throw knives and fight. She takes Lauren to the Finder. The Finder is a man that magically brings the people to Lost. Claire convinces the Finder that Lauren is special. So together, Lauren, Claire, and the Finder embark on a journey of friendship and trust. Lauren’s goal is to find the Missing Man so she goes into a place where only the Missing Man can go, the Void. The Void is where every lost object is lost waiting to be found. The Missing Man only has the ability to go in there. Lauren takes a risky gamble and goes into the void. She soon realizes that she has power to help people find missing objects just like the Missing Man. Now the townspeople started to be nice to her so she would find their object for them. As time went on, Lauren discovered she had the powers to send people home just by saying a couple of words, “You were lost; you are found.” (Durst55) So, she sent herself home despite the situation in Lost and the Finder admitting that he loved her. Now Lauren must face reality. She was in a coma for three months (that is what the doctors said) because of a car crash (or so that’s what they say), and her mom’s health is declining rapidly. Lauren decides she is taking her mother to Lost (no one ever dies in Lost) and she also wants to help the people get back home.  This book was designed to keep the reader waiting to see what would happen next. The author did a pretty good job doing it. Throughout the book I had many reactions. I reacted when Lauren went into the void. I was afraid she might fade. Normal people who go into the Void disappear from lost and die in their reality. But then I got surprised when Lauren walked out of the void carrying missing objects for people. I had a could it really be reaction.  When Lauren awoke from her quote and quote, “coma,” she went to go see her mom and her mom made her meet her therapist.  The author made the therapist have the same physical qualities of the Finder.  My reaction at first was, “I can’t believe it! The Finder went to see Lauren.” As it unfolds, turns out the therapist was not the Finder. I assume the author did it to give the book a little more suspense and questioning since right before Lauren disappeared from Lost, the Finder said that he loved Lauren and that he didn’t want her to go. The author probably did this to make readers believe that the Finder followed her somehow. At the end of the story I had a questioning reaction meaning I wanted to find out what would happen next.  At the end, the setting is at a cemetery for Lauren’s dead mother.  At the funeral, Lauren sees the Missing Man and tries to chase after him but then he disappears. Probably back to Lost. So the author leaves us hanging until the second book coming out shortly… So, I felt weird like “lost” in the middle of a thought that was not yet finished. I’d say even though this book leaves you hanging at the end wondering, it makes it all the more worth reading. It’s a book that makes the gears in your head spin. This book should be on everyone’s reading list since it makes you think about places like Lost that in your reality does not exist but could exist making you double check yourself.  Her writing is so descriptive that it makes you feel llke you are in the story. The story has a dark feel but yet so reassuring. The only way to tell is by reading it for yourself.
BookLoversLife1 More than 1 year ago
Lauren gets in the car as usual and drives to work but instead of taking the turn that will take her there, she keeps going straight. Her mother got results back from the doctor and Lauren just wants a few hours escape before she has to hear them.  When she enters a dust storm Laurens car stops. She decides to wait out the storm and turn back then, but she sees a stranger in the storm. He stares at her before pushing her car to the outskirts of a town called Lost.  Little does she know that this town is no ordinary town but that its a place where lost things or people go. There's no way to leave until you have found what you've lost and then only the Missing Man can help you.  When Lauren meets the Missing Man he asks her name. When she tells him he turns tail and leaves. He leaves town and doesn't come back and the people of Lost blame her.  Will she survive?  Will she be able to find the Missing Man and go home?  I'm so glad I got a chance to read this because I loved it!! Sarah Beth Durst has such a flair for writing and she never disappoints.  I loved Laurens character. She is a normal girl. She just wants a little bit of time before she hears her mothers news so decides to take a few short hours away from everything. When she gets to Lost she thinks the place to be very weird but she has to spend the night before returning home. The place may be weird but the people are weirder. When she is told what Lost is she just thinks she has landed into a town of crazies. She decides to leave and prays her car starts. Thankfully it does and Lauren drives out of Lost and into the dust storm again, but she finds herself constantly driving past the sign for Lost! She knows she drove straight and never turned so what is going on? When she runs out of petrol she starts to believe the people of Lost and realise she may never leave. The whole time she is in Lost she has the spark in her to go home no matter what. She was spunky but also sweet, kind and a really nice girl. The mysterious stranger that pushed her car is Peter. He is The Finder in Lost and "found" Lauren in the dust storm. Anyone left in the storm too long just fades from existence so its his job to find them. Peter for me was the best character. He was mysterious and handsome but a little weird. Lauren has no idea what to make of this person dressed in a trench with no shirt on. He is covered in tattoos and quotes things to her, yet she knows he may be her only hope of finding the Missing Man and going home.  Plot wise this reminds me of The Twilight Zone my parents used to watch. You enter a town and every time you try to leave you end up back where you started. Then this town is no ordinary place but a place for all Lost things. I loved the whole mystery surrounding the characters and the town. Each person who enters Lost has to find what they are looking for before they can go home. Each character has a story to tell and we only get a glimpse of some of them. Being book 1 we are left with a lot of unanswered questions like who is the Missing Man? Whats in room 12? Who is Peter exactly? All these questions and more just make me want to read the next book more.  Overall, I loved The Lost. The authors style of writing and her imagination are phenomenal. This just sucked me in and didn't let go. In Lost you never know whats around the corner nor who you will meet. Its an odd place but there's a dark side to it as well. Between the feral dogs and the people who live on the outside of town, there's always a dark undertow. The author really makes you fall in love with the peculiar characters and the mysterious place. Her descriptive writing grabbed me and made me part of Lost and I cant wait to return to Lost when The Missing comes out! Highly recommend!!! (I still think Lost is real and that's where all the missing socks go :) ) 
chelleyreads More than 1 year ago
The Lost is Sarah Beth Durst's first adult novel and, like in her YA novels, she once again takes us on a unique adventure in a strange yet brilliantly crafted world. Seriously, you guys, Ms. Durst can't do no wrong. Every book I've read by her (granted I haven't read everything she had written but I've read quite a few including Ice, Drink Slay Love and Enchanted Ivy) was superbly written and The Lost was no exception. The premise of The Lost is simple enough: a woman, Lauren, received word that her mother's already deteriorating health had taken a turn for the worse. She needed to clear her mind so instead of turning on to the street she typically takes to go to work, she instead turned the opposite way and just kept driving. Soon, she found herself caught in a dust storm and wound up in a very strange town called Lost. Lauren quickly found out that Lost was unlike any other town. It was literally a place where all the lost things, including people, in the world go. The only way a person can leave the town was if they can figure out and find what they had lost.  That was the basic premise that I got before I started reading the novel. I didn't quite know how the story was going to go or who the other characters were. I don't like going into a story blind but the writing was so good that I kept going and I'm so glad I did. Lauren was your every-girl. We've kind of been where she was in life. She had a job she's not quite happy with but it pays the bills and lived an unassuming life until her mother got sick and moved in with her. Lauren felt heavy with responsibility, sadness, worry and she couldn't really talk to anyone because she's drifted off from her friends. When she got stranded in Lost, she reacted how I would react if I were in her shoes: a mix of disbelief, fear, confusion, sadness, panic, hopelessness and needing to get out of there before she missed her mother completely. She was an easy character to like. Two people took Lauren in after she unintentionally angered the townspeople. One is the beautiful and mysterious Peter who ran around with his long black trench coat, no shirt underneath. The other is Claire, a young girl who carried a stuffed toy in one hand and a knife in another.  The story was bleak, with Lauren stuck in this strange, rundown town filled with lost things and its unfriendly inhabitants. Is there even hope for Lauren to get out and get back to her sick mother before it's too late? Or is she stuck in Lost forever? The Lost was a dark, unusual read and in the wrong hands it would have been a frustrating and confusing one, but Sarah Beth Durst makes it so easy to follow with her lyrical writing and deft storytelling. It drew me in in a way I wasn't expecting and I cannot wait to read book two, which is called The Missing. However, I don't think it's a book for everyone. The pacing is slower and it is a retrospective, contemplative kind of read rather than an action-packed, race-through-the-pages type. If you love Sarah Beth Durst's novels, you have to pick up The Lost . I guarantee you'll enjoy it. If you're new to Sarah's books, I suggest starting with her YA novels, particularly Ice (Leslie also suggest Vessel) to get a feel for her writing. If you're a YA reader, don't let the adult label deter you from picking up The Lost--it can be enjoyed by both a YA and adult audience. (Originally posted on Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks book blog.)