Hallelujah thought that if she kept her head down, pastor’s son Luke, the popular boy she once crushed on, would stop bullying her and spreading humiliating lies about what happened between them.
Instead, her refusing to defend herself has allowed Luke’s lies to go unchallenged and estranged Hallie from her friends. Compounding her isolation, her naïve, deeply religious parents accept Luke’s account of her behavior and enroll her in a church-sponsored, spring-break camp in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where Luke’s bullying continues. Mistrustful, immobilized by despair, Hallie avoids former close friend Jonah and rebuffs friendly overtures from a new girl, Rachel. When Rachel quits a contentious hike (no cellphones allowed) to return to camp, Hallie and Jonah join her. Inexperienced in the wilderness, they head in the wrong direction, then—in a heavy rain squall—lose the trail altogether. No one’s brought a flashlight; provisions are lunch leftovers, water and a can of soda. They move instead of staying put, fail to recognize poison ivy, freeze at night. The struggle to survive is terrifying but galvanizing, even cleansing. In calmer moments, they ponder life’s unanswerable questions, and faith (there are no atheists in foxholes) is proven a power in its own right. Readers will root for Hallie, a compelling original, to find faith in herself.
Vivid, gripping and believable from beginning to end—a strong debut. (Fiction. 13-16)