Despite impossible odds, Toby is determined to honor his friend Lucas by completing a partial thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Hypothermia, sunburn, dehydration, starvation; each could become a deadly mistake on the 450-mile trek from his home in Vermont to where the trail ends on Mount Katahdin in Maine. Toby’s youth and inexperience put him in constant danger, but the kindness of other hikers helps him when he is most desperate. But when he meets a half-starved mutt on the trail, he halves his resources and doubles his responsibility. For Toby, finishing the hike is in part penance for a tragedy he believes is his fault. He is certain only the rise and fall of his boots will satisfy the ache in his heart. Aside from the flashbacks that rather laboriously recount Toby’s relationship with Lucas and how everything went wrong, Toby’s adventure reads rather like a combination of an equipment checklist and a mashup of every possible danger one might encounter in nature. Extreme adventure fans will appreciate the research that went into recounting the life of an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, but other readers will quickly grow weary of the repetitive narrative, the lack of character diversity, and endless near-death experiences. And while the trail is hilly, Toby’s emotional journey is flat. Absence of racial cues will lead readers to infer that Toby is white.
Unsatisfying and predictable. (Fiction. 8-12)