The Distance from Me to You – Marina Gessner – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 20 October 2015
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.
The Distance From Me To You is an inspiring and slightly exhausting tale of resilience, strength and determination, mixed in with a good amount of dangerous escapades, trail adventures and romance. It’s a fun read, one that makes you want to slap on a pair of hiking boots, grab a map and hit the trail. But ultimately it is a story of one girl who sets out to challenge herself and who surprises herself with what she can accomplish.
McKenna is my kind of girl. She craves solitude and adventure, wants to see the world outside the town she has lived in all her life and she loves nature, determined to never become someone who has traded in fresh air and spectacular views for a electronic alternative reality. Her plan has always been to defer her first year of college and trek the Appalachian Trail with her best friend. But when Courtney pulls out of the arrangement to instead spend the next year with her boyfriend, McKenna decides to lie to her parents and go solo.
The first two thirds of the book really sets up the scene as McKenna begins her trip, learning that it’s going to be a whole lot harder than she thought but also far more rewarding. McKenna meets Sam, a fellow thru hiker, pretty early on in her trip but doesn’t join forces with him until much later in the book. I liked how this leaves time for the book to be about more than just romance. McKenna is embarking on an inspiring journey, but she’s not really challenged until she starts walking with Sam, whose hiking style is much different and far more confronting to the by-the-book McKenna. It’s Sam who really grabbed my heart. His being on the trail is, what he considers, his only option in life right now. Escaping from his volatile home, his plans include walking from one end of the trail and turning around and walking to the other. He forages and works for food, leaving the trail to fish, forage and discover.
It’s about two thirds into the book that McKenna and Sam wander off the trail. I have to admit that at this point some events got slightly unbelievable, thought fortunately not enough to detract too much from the authenticity and flow of the story. The writing style flips from McKenna to Sam’s viewpoint, both in third person, as well as including a few sections from other characters, such as McKenna’s mother, to help the reader see all sides of the story.
This is a fun book to read, and was a lot more complicated and searching than I expected. Coming of age, learning your own limits, deciding your own path, a woman’s right to go it alone, and sticking to your true self, are all messages that are aptly conveyed in a story that combines romance with self-determination all with the backing of the beautiful scenery of the Appalachian Trail.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Hiking, survival, Appalachian Trail, romance, family, self-disovery, resilience, nature, adventure.
Reading age guide: Ages 12/13 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references and implied scenes with minimal details.
Published: 20 October 2015 by G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young readers.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 352 pages.