If ever there was a metaphor, this title is the icing on the cake (get it?)
In all seriousness, Hallie (Hallelujah) is dealing with a deep secret and some serious isolation and bullying. On a youth group trip, the story begins reliving the last 6 months of Hallie’s life as well as the current predicament of trying to both be invisible and also how to stand her ground towards the cause of her troubles – Luke. She explains early on to a newcomer Rachel, that Luke didn’t raper her, but while you read you wonder what could have done to her besides that which led to rumors resulting in her friends abandoning her, her parents distrusting her, and her inner anxiety and self of irrelevancy that removed her voice, both figuratively and literally (the singing voice, that is).
On the day of a 12 mile hike with her youth group, Hallie finds herself with Rachel, both willing to lose the group and be reprimanded with being sent home. Only they, and a once-friend, now foe Jonah, end up isolated from the group and lost in the woods ….. for days. As the rain pours down and their energy bars soggy, the threesome realize their own damaging pasts and guilt, but know for the sake of survival they must focus as a team. Hallie and Jonah face their past when his friendship abandoned her and together the three of them try to survive the nights and days lost in the woods.
I liked the premise, but it got a little religious for me and my YA typical reading. I think it’s fair to believe teenagers have these questions of when God is present, when he is not, how bad things happen, etc. But it was a bit overkill for me. I believe the character growth, forgiveness, and facing fear (as well as beauty in nature – yes, even on their 5th day lost, really…..) could have been covered with a little less focus on spirituality, but some may dig it. I imagine preteens or parents of who want certain behavior from children and want them to be devout would enjoy the book. I really liked the three friends coming together and finally Hallie stands up for herself once rescued. But I feel the adventure and survivalist plot was overshadowed by the religious conversations. Still, teenagers could all learn some to focus on treating people kindly and also on the skill of forgiveness so maybe I’m reading too much into this plot [get it? another pun …. “reading into it” and it’s a novel, ha].