Hallelujah is good at being silent. She’s been silent since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, even though her silence meant no one ever heard her side of the story. She was silent at school, silent at home, just silent. Months later, at a youth group retreat, Luke is still making Hallie’s life miserable and not even meeting Rachel, a girl who doesn’t know her past and seems to want to be friends, can help. Finally, Hallie can’t take anymore and it leads to her, Rachel, and a former friend, Jonah, getting lost in the woods during a group hike. There’s no choice but to work together and hopefully save themselves.
This book ended up being a pleasant surprise for me. I can’t remember the last time I was so angry in defense of a character so quickly, but it only took a page for me to want to scream at Luke. I felt for Hallie, I wanted to protect her, I wanted someone to expose Luke as a bully. All in the first chapter.
Hallie, for me, was a very memorable character. She wasn’t perfect, she could be frustratingly passive, she pushed people away, she really didn’t believe in her own voice at all. Watching her being forced to learn to trust herself and others throughout the book made for a great growth arc. The book was a survival story about three teens lost in the woods but is was just as much a story about Hallie discovering who was worth being trusted, forgiven, and accepted.
Out of the other two teens, I enjoyed Rachel a bit more than Jonah. Mostly because Rachel was very expressive with her emotions, she really didn’t keep much to herself and she was determined not to give up on Hallie just because she kept getting pushed away. Jonah, I didn’t want to like with him being a part of Luke’s group and knowing he’d turned away from Hallie after the incident, but I could also understand him. He made a bad call with only knowing one side of the story and the other side wasn’t being told. He was human. He really grew on me.
The survival aspect of the book was a little terrifying. As much as I’d like to think three teens would never be so naive to break away from the group or that the counselors would put the kids in a situation where it was possible, it does happen. The fact that it was a day hike meant none of them were prepared to spend the night in the woods and bad weather made things treacherous. No food, no shelter, knowing there was no medical supplies. It made for a lot of tension.
There was a bit of religious discussion. They were at a church youth group retreat. I found myself enjoying it. It wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t making fun, it wasn’t condemning. It was honest and questioning and I thought it was very believable that it would be happening.
The pacing was great. Characters being lost in the woods might not seem like a page-turner but there was so much happening. The character growth and the reveal of Hallie’s back story with Luke were done in a way so they lasted through most of the book. I never found it dull or slow.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.