It was the survival-in-the-woods story that pulled me in. Some days it seems like every other young adult book is either a quirky romance or a dark, probably psychological, “problem” novel. Actually I love both the romances and the dark tales, but the synopsis of this book was some of neither.
Hallelujah (yes that is actually the protagonist’s name) doesn’t want to go on the retreat in the woods with the youth group she’s alienated herself from. Or have they alienated her? It’s hard to tell after the incident six months ago, when one event turned her social status on its head. Either way, the tortuously awkward hiking retreat in the Smoky Mountains becomes even worse when Hal and two others become separated from the group and lost in a storm, in the woods. It’s a classic: “will they make it out again…and become best friends in the process…?” *insert cliffhanger music here.*
As stated before, props to Kathryn Holmes for creating a novel that is readable and entertaining, and one that strays from the typical backdrops for YA novels of the 21st century. Unfortunately, for me as a reader, I found many of the plot turns formulaic. Of course I enjoyed a break from my typical genre, but the lost-in-the-woods story line is not original enough to render it a real page-turner. The most predictable, and slightly annoying plot point is the incident. Why does Hallelujah have no friends? Hinted at in the synopsis, all the details are finally revealed in the second half of the book, but at that point I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen anyway. No spoilers here, however, overall the backstory felt forced and frankly a little cheesy. Holmes intrigued me with the ideas in this survival tale, but, in my opinion, failed to deliver the story in a realistic or original way.
All that being said, I can’t entirely discredit the novel. It did keep my interest, and a few slices of dialogue toward the end were particularly resonant. As Hal and her friends are trekking through the wilderness, they bring up whether they’ve ever “felt God” and if that’s even hypocritical to talk about. At another point, they discuss whether cursing is justifiable in certain contexts. As a church kid, I can relate asking those same questions with my own friends, but you almost never find topics like that explored in writing that doesn’t also try to shove the gospel down your throat.
While not substantial enough to stay in your head and haunt you for days, I enjoyed the journey with The Distance Between Lost and Found enough to check out another Kathryn Holmes, How It Feels To Fly…second time’s a charm?
As always, if you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Recommended to: YA readers looking for a quick read, people who enjoyed the tv show Lost, My Side of the Mountain, and Hatchet (wilderness survival type books)