Title: The Distance from Me to You by Marina Gessner
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 350 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Wild meets Endless Love in this multilayered story of love, survival, and self-discovery
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 by Marina Gessner is an exhilarating journey of self-discovery for lead protagonist McKenna Berney. A six month hike on the Appalachian Trial for the recent high school grad leads to romance but it is what she learns about herself that makes the novel such a wonderful read.
Having grown up hearing her father’s stories about hiking the Pacific Northwest Trial, McKenna is determined to undergo a similar hike before beginning college. She and her close friend Courtney have been planning their trip for the past year, but at the last minute, Courtney backs out after reuniting with her boyfriend. Undeterred and determined to go through with the 2000 mile hike, McKenna keeps the change in plans from her parents and strikes out on her own.
McKenna is pretty mature for her age and she has extensively researched her upcoming hike and she has carefully planned her daily hikes and stops. However, her trip is off to a bit of rocky beginning after she overestimates her abilities and underestimates the initial segment of the rugged terrain. Quickly regrouping, she soon hits her stride and she basks in the solitude and splendor of the trail. McKenna also seizes the opportunity to unplug from modern technology and greatly limits her use of the cell phone she brought along for safety’s sake. Despite her ability to take care of herself, McKenna is a little naive and in spite of her forethought and preparations, she is unable to plan for every contingency which leads to some ill-thought out decisions along the way.
On the trail, McKenna crosses paths with Sam Tilghman, a runaway who is hiking the trail after running away from his abusive father. He successfully hikes to his brother’s house in Maine, but upon discovering his brother is following in their father’s footsteps, Sam decides to hit the trail again. He and McKenna hike independently for part of the trip but eventually a romance begins after they decide to become travel partners. Their different strengths help compensate for their individual weaknesses but trouble ensues when McKenna allows him to talk her into going off trail.
The Distance from Me to You is a marvelous adventure and Marina Gessner brings the Appalachian Trial vibrantly to life. The romance between McKenna and Sam is very sweet but it is the valuable lessons they each learn that makes the novel such a worthwhile read. McKenna learns the hard way to trust her instincts and she emerges from the journey with the strength and self-confidence to make some tough decisions about her future. All in all, a very compelling and fascinating contemporary young adult novel that readers of all ages will enjoy.