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.
Gessner, a pseudonym for author Nina de Gramont (The Boy I Love), offers a wilderness adventure dashed with romance and danger. High school grad McKenna decides to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone and withholds that detail from her parents after her best friend Courtney backs out of their planned months-long trip. Everyone underestimates McKenna's ability to complete the journey (even when they think she's still with Courtney), and she is determined to prove them wrong. Meanwhile, Sam is on the same trail, hiking neck and neck with McKenna and escaping an abusive family. As they run into each other almost daily, sparks fly and love blossoms. The third-person omniscient narration, which includes occasional interludes from McKenna's worried mother back home, can be awkward and emotionally distant, especially during McKenna and Sam's first sexual encounter and when describing McKenna's thoughts ("she reminded herself that anxiety and exhilaration were close cousins"). Despite this, many readers should find it easy to relate to McKenna's desire to take risks, prove her independence, and finish the trail at all costs. Ages 12 up.