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Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers' Favorite
Three different characters try to find something in Down and Out in Kathmandu by Jennifer S. Alderson. Zelda is an idealistic young woman who wants to follow her friends' example and find herself while traveling. She decides being a volunteer in Kathmandu to teach English to little kids would be just the right path while doing something good along the way. Ian, on the other hand, doesn't need to find himself. All he wants to find is more weed. After all, his friend told him the stuff was even worshiped in temples in Tibet and that you could just pick as much as you want on certain hikes. Zelda and Ian meet at the airport and, over time, develop some sort of on/off holiday fling. But they go their different ways after a while: Zelda goes off to her volunteer experience and Ian goes off to have as much fun as possible. In the meantime, readers also get to know Tommy, who wants to become rich by smuggling diamonds - but then gets himself into real trouble. Unfortunately, Ian also gets caught up in the mess, which leads to Zelda being caught up in the mess. Soon all three fear for their lives - so much for finding yourself, having fun, or becoming rich!
The story is more than I expected in the beginning, and I like how volunteer work is portrayed in such a realistic way. I have volunteered a lot myself. So I know that things aren't as glamorous as many people think they are. Volunteering can be tough, dirty, and nerve-wracking, especially when you - like Zelda - are in an area where you feel isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. I also liked how the author managed to show the different types of volunteers there are, and how everyone has a different reason for doing what they do (e.g. one volunteers to "find herself" and the other one volunteers to up her chances of being accepted at the place where she wants to study). It was also interesting to learn a bit more about the culture of the people in and around Kathmandu.
In the beginning, I wasn't sure how Tommy fitted into the whole story. I found him annoying and superfluous, but the more the story progressed, the more I began to see the whole picture and, in the end, it all made perfect sense (more or less). It was interesting to see how the plot developed, and how Zelda managed to end up in one troublesome situation after the other. She clearly had to learn a lot about life and herself during all those challenges. It's not what she came to Kathmandu for, but in the end, she kind of got what she wanted: she found herself in a way. If Ian was a real person, he wouldn't think so, but I thought his plot line was quite funny. I couldn't take him seriously and found him very entertaining. Just the way he ended up getting into real trouble in a hotel (can't divulge the details!) was in a way predictable, but very funny! The book was a fun, but also interesting and exciting read!