Here’s the description: Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her…silent.
Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.
On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.
With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?
What I liked about it: Kathryn Holmes does a great job of blending the adventure/survival story with contemporary YA issues. First, on the survival front: Holmes does not go easy on her characters. Hallie, Rachel, and Jonah purposely leave their group and figure it would be easy enough to find their way back. Right. The physical challenges they face include a limited amount of food and clean water, poison ivy, and a severely sprained ankle–for starters. Things get worse. Much worse. The increasing tension related to their survival make you care about the characters and their fate, as they in a life or death situation.
Next, on the social/emotional front: Being stranded in the Smoky Mountains would have been enough as far as conflicts go, but Holmes adds another layer. These teens are on a religious retreat rife with gossip and back-stabbing, stemming from an incident that happened much earlier. Hallie’s pain is real and raw. She has to dig deep into her physical and emotional reserves not only to survive this situation but also to get through it with renewed faith in herself, God, and those around her.
About the author: Kathryn Holmes says on her website that for as long as she can remember, she’s wanted to write and dance. Now, she’s lucky enough to divide most of my days between words and movement, as an author/freelance writer and a contemporary dancer. She’s a Tennessean-turned-diehard Brooklynite, an aspiring yogini, a cat person, and—of course—a voracious reader.