Book Review: Halfway to the Sky
A few years ago, I bought a CD by a new punk band. It became my programming sound track, I listened to it for an entire summer while I did the backend for the Virtual IT website. To this day when I hear the songs, I feel energized and productive. The band was Good Charlotte. It wasn’t until much later I discovered the fanbase of Good Charlotte consists of me… and twelve year old little girls.
The main character’s brother recently died from a debilitating disease. Filled with grief and feeling alienated from even close family members, she decides to leave town without telling anyone and thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail to find some silence, some peace.
Her name is Dani. She’s twelve.
The people she leaves behind- her divorced parents.
Despite being young, Dani displays a lot of good hiking sense. She trained two hours a day for three months. She was well read on all the guidebooks and maps. She saved up money for the expenses and even showed great prudence with the contents in her pack. But she forget to delete her browser history. That dang Internet Explorer will get you every time. Before she was even off on Springer Mountain, Dani’s mother, rather unpleased, catches up with her.
After some drama, Dani convinces her mother to keep on hiking. Together, they complete 700 miles and finish up in an area I’m very familiar with– Catawba, Virginia. Along the way, they argue, they disagree, they grieve and they bond.
Some of the plot lines and conversations between Dani and her father don’t feel genuine to me. But I did enjoy the relationship and understanding that developed between mother and daughter on the trail.
Perhaps more than the storyline, I enjoyed this book as an introduction to the Appalachian Trail. I thought it did a great job of interweaving facts and trail culture into the tale. The whole book is formatted very much like a Trail Journal listing the current location, the daily mileage and the total AT mileage at the beginning of each chapter. It hit on so many little tidbits that made the story feel authentic and educational– GORP, trail magic, the infamous approach trail to Springer Mountain, the shelters, hanging bear bags with carabiners, Damascus Trail Days, trail registers, hostels, zero days, moleskin, what foods weather the best, mail drops, the logistics of doing laundry and even the thru-hiker smell.
Everytime I hike with a new person, I find a new trail food to adopt for future trips. Dani and her mother are fictitious hiking partners, but nonetheless I was introduced to another trail recipe.
Mom made the pudding in a zippered plastic bag with [pudding mix], powdered milk and water. We cut the side of the bag and squeezed it into our mouths.
!!!! YUM !!!! The thought of trail pudding alone makes me want to leave my house and go backpacking right now. I will definitely be trying that in the future!
This book is classified as a Young Adult title. Its target audience is pre-teens– twelve year old little girls. But like Good Charlotte, the author has attracted a significantly older fan.
One who’s suddenly craving pudding. : )