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Your Destination Is on the Left

Review

Your Destination Is on the Left

Dessa Rhodes spends her life on the road. Ever since her parents decided to uproot their lives and travel around the United States exploring the country, Dessa’s home has been their RV, surrounded by the other two families traveling with them. For years Dessa was satisfied, visiting new states and spending time with Cyrus, the boy in their caravan who has always been something more than a friend to her. But now Dessa is looking for more, applying to colleges with the hope of pursuing an education as an artist and taking her talent to a new level. No matter how much she might want it, she also knows that going to college will mean leaving behind a life of endless travel, as well as her family --- and Cyrus. That is, if she gets accepted. She has received rejections from every school except UCLA, with no plan of what to do if she gets a final rejection. So when an internship opportunity with an artist pops up, Dessa takes it, in the hopes of figuring out what she wants to do --- and who she is.

" Spieller does an excellent job developing the reader’s understanding of Dessa’s way of life and the relationships that develop among a group of individuals whose only constant is each other in the midst of changing scenery."

In YOUR DESTINATION IS ON THE LEFT, Lauren Spieller presents enduring young adult themes of identity, coming of age and romance in an entirely new context. Dessa’s life as a modern nomad presents a unique look at a way of life that comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, and this influences how Dessa approaches the conflicts she encounters. Spieller does an excellent job developing the reader’s understanding of Dessa’s way of life and the relationships that develop among a group of individuals whose only constant is each other in the midst of changing scenery. The dynamics of the travelers prove interesting, and the specific struggles of raising and supporting a family feature heavily in the novel, allowing Spieller to explore these common issues in an uncommon setting.

More important than this, though, Spieller thoroughly develops Dessa’s character, allowing the reader to relate and connect with her --- even more essential, given Dessa’s unique lifestyle. Dessa’s struggles with figuring out her future, judging her art by the expectations of others and simply overcoming her fears in order to unlock her talent will pertain to many readers, far beyond those that have artistic talent: everyone with a specific interest or talent will recognize the terror of falling short in an area that defines them.

Spieller also includes a romantic element of the story, but it doesn’t overpower the narrative --- Dessa’s relationship with Cyrus serves as a side plot of the novel, but Dessa’s struggles take precedence. More than this, though, Dessa develops relationships with multiple other characters throughout the story, ensuring that she doesn’t rely on Cyrus as her only source of advice or support. These relationships all have a unique dynamic, providing Dessa with differing forms of support and growth throughout her story.

Although the novel features strong themes and well-developed characters, Dessa’s interaction with her setting could have been expanded upon. While she spends time in Santa Fe, she seems isolated from her setting --- given her lifestyle, it would have been especially interesting to see her interact with her surroundings more, exploring the local culture and comparing it to her experiences in other areas of America, something that would have given both her and her world more depth.

Overall, however, Spieller’s YOUR DESTINATION IS ON THE LEFT provides a look at relatable issues in a fresh context. The story is relatively light and short, providing a read suited to summer that still packs meaning and depth. Readers will find themselves invested in Dessa’s struggles and her eventual growth, and will likely take lessons from her life that they can apply to their own.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on August 1, 2018

Your Destination Is on the Left
by Lauren Spieller