Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 20th, 2015
Genres: young adult, contemporary
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Wild meets Endless Love in this multilayered story of love, survival, and self-discovery.
McKenna Berney is a lucky girl. She has a loving family and has been accepted to college for the fall. But McKenna has a different goal in mind: much to the chagrin of her parents, she defers her college acceptance to hike the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia with her best friend. And when her friend backs out, McKenna is determined to go through with the dangerous trip on her own. While on the Trail, she meets Sam. Having skipped out on an abusive dad and quit school, Sam has found a brief respite on the Trail, where everyone’s a drifter, at least temporarily.
Despite lives headed in opposite directions, McKenna and Sam fall in love on an emotionally charged journey of dizzying highs and devastating lows. When their punch-drunk love leads them off the trail, McKenna has to persevere in a way she never thought possible to beat the odds or risk both their lives.
This is my third book about long distance hiking. I’ve read Wild, A Walk In the Woods, and now this: The Distance From Me to You. Of the three, this is my least favorite, though I still liked it. I just think it was a bit chaotic and less about the hike and the internal struggle than I would have liked.
When all of McKenna’s friends are getting ready for college, McKenna decides to thru-hike the Appalachian trail. (Side note: this is something I have always wanted to do because I love hiking, but after this book, I think I’ll pass. I just don’t think I could ever get into the kind of shape I would need to be in to accomplish this. BUTTTT I still want to do the PNW trail, though I would probably skip Montana. I just love the Pacific North West. I’m thinking about moving there in my old age. 😉 ) Mckenna is supposed to go with her best friend, but she backs out because of a dude. Ugh. There’s nothing like letting a man run your life. She’ll regret that someday.
McKenna decides to go by herself, and no one knows this except for said friend, who will have to keep up the ruse with McKenna’s parents while she is gone. She starts off on the trail, things go well for a while even though it’s super difficult, she meets a boy, he’s a stupid ass, things happen that are NOT good, etc. The hikers in peril storyline doesn’t happen until the second half of the book, so it’s a very odd reading experience. The first half of the book seems like it has a different plot than the second. It’s all self-discovery, overcoming challenges, learning about who you really are, etc. The second half is all about a stupid love interest that lacks common sense, romance or lack thereof, and hikers in danger. Obviously I liked the first half better, and the book sort of fell apart for me after that.
I HATED Sam. And I can’t figure out why a girl like McKenna, who is strong enough to hike the damn Appalachian trail by herself, would pick someone like him. He was a FOOL. Now, don’t get me wrong. I really feel for his situation–I do–but he didn’t make one smart decision in the whole book. Why would a reader even like him or want him to end up with McKenna, who I liked from the very beginning? Teenage girls date some stupid guys while they are young, but I just don’t understand why an author would write a character this way? It’s hard to talk about Sam without discussion spoilers but he does some really stupid shit that leaves both characters in a heap of trouble. I’m not saying McKenna didn’t have a hand in this, but she knew better from the beginning yet did it anyway. Sam was a lost cause from day one.
It’s hard for me to love a book if I hate one of the main characters and I know the author didn’t mean for me to. I know teens make stupid decisions and I am totally looking at this through the lens of an adult, but c’mon. Make stupid decisions when your life isn’t in mortal peril. IDK. It bothered me.
And then there was the writing, which wasn’t a big thing, but I found it a little stilted–mostly towards the beginning. I got into the author’s style, but, and this is really weird, a lot of the time when McKenna’s name came up in the writing it made me pause. A name has never bothered me like this before but it yanked me out of the narrative, and I don’t even know what to say about that other than my brain is a really weird place. It just came off a bit high-school creative writing project.
Okay, so now that I nitpicked the hell out of this book, I need to mention what I loved. I loved McKenna’s narrative voice. I loved being in her head, hearing her thoughts, and feeling her feelings. I didn’t understand what she saw in Sam (I still don’t), but I think I understand her a lot because she thinks and feels a lot like I do. She manages stress in a similar fashion as well. I loved her depth and she came across as genuine to me.
I loved the parts about McKenna, by herself, on the trail. I do like how the book resolved itself, View Spoiler » « Hide Spoiler and I appreciate the author going for an unconventional ending that I think will probably make some readers unhappy. It started out as a book about self discovery, View Spoiler » « Hide Spoiler and even though it took a side trail (ISWYDT), it eventually got back to the book I loved in the beginning.