My YA Scavenger Hunt Guest : Kathryn Holmes
Hello, YA Readers and Scavenger Hunters!
One of the biggest challenges I had while writing The Distance Between Lost and Found, my debut novel about three teens who get lost in the mountains, was figuring out how to get my characters lost fast while still setting up their story and their interactions in a meaningful way. Hallelujah “Hallie” Calhoun is a bullied and withdrawn outcast on her youth group hiking trip, and when new girl Rachel and former friend Jonah try to reach out to her, she rejects them. In the first draft, I devoted a lot of pages to their initial hike, describing Hallie’s feelings of isolation and allowing her to observe and comment on her fellow youth group members’ behavior. In revisions, I realized that the pacing was just too slow, and I ended up cutting most of the hiking scenes before Hallie, Rachel, and Jonah get separated from the rest of the group and start their adventure.
This next scene was hard to cut, because I’ve loved it from the day I wrote it. That said, the book works much better without it, so I have no regrets! I’m thrilled to get to share it with all of you. Enjoy!
(Oh, and if you like what you read here, you can find The Distance Between Lost and Found on Amazon , Barnes & Noble , or at your local independent bookstore. I’ll also be giving away a signed copy during the YA Scavenger Hunt—enter to win on my website, KathrynHolmes.com !)
They’ve reached Abrams Falls. The falls aren’t the tallest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the water is quick and powerful. It rushes off a 20-foot drop, spraying over gray rocks into a pool below. It roars, so they have to raise their voices to be heard. Not that Hallelujah is raising her voice. Not that she’s talking at all.
Their group isn’t the only one at the falls. A few families have come in via the easier hike from Cades Cove. A group of backpackers has climbed up to the top of the falls, and they’re sitting, legs dangling, flirting with danger so near the force of the water. And people are floating in the pool at the base of the falls, far enough away from the waterfall itself to avoid the undertow that Hallelujah knows has claimed two swimmers already this year.
All around her, her peers are stripping down to swimsuits, t-shirts, and shorts. The Knoxville girls find a patch of sunlight and lie back like it’s Cancun in July, instead of Tennessee in April. Brad is halfway up the falls yelling “Cannonball! Cannonball!” before the hike leader chases him down. It was drilled into their heads before they left: no jumping. Too many rocks. And the undertow. They might make it, or they might end up with their heads split open, sucked under the falls. For just a second, Hallelujah thinks, Good riddance. And then she shakes her head. She can’t wish that on Brad. She can’t even wish that on Luke.
She wants to, but she can’t.
She finds a patch of rock to sit where she’s in the sunlight. She slowly, methodically unpacks her backpack and sets everything out to dry. A chaperone comes over and hands her a sandwich and an apple. The sun warms her and dries her and the sound of the falls crashing so near calms her. She leans back, baking like the Knoxville girls. Maybe they’re on to something, after all.
Birds and trees above and solid rock and water below and she’s in the middle of it all. It swirls around her. The other hikers fade away. And, thank God, everyone leaves her alone.
An hour or a few minutes later, she opens her eyes to see Jonah standing over her.
“Hey. We’re going,” he says.
She packs up. She stands, brushes the dirt from her back, and slings on her backpack. She’s pretty much dry, just a little dampness to her jeans. Just enough to chafe when she walks. She joins the group.
“We’re going to take a slightly different route back, though we’ll end up at the same campground where we were dropped off this morning,” the hike leader is saying. “The timing should be about the same. And we’ll make two more stops for short devotionals along the way.” He looks around, taking everyone in. “All set?”
They start down the trail. Hallelujah sees Rachel near the back of the pack. Eyes down. Alone. She feels a twinge in her chest. A moment later, she recognizes it as the twinge of being the hurter rather than the hurtee. And so she drops back and slips into the line just in front of Rachel. Her gut tells her to stand there. The twinge eases. A little.
Rachel doesn’t say a word. Jonah brings up the rear of the entire group. Again.
As they walk, Rachel is like a specter at Hallelujah’s back. She looms. And Hallelujah knows it’s her own guilty conscience that’s looming, but she can’t shake the feeling that Rachel’s reproach is going to rise up and smother her. She wants to turn around and apologize. She wants to turn around to make sure Rachel hasn’t, in fact, turned into some kind of vengeful phantom. But she doesn’t know what to say, not yet, and Rachel’s feet are still crushing twigs and pounding the dirt, very human sounds, and so Hallelujah keeps walking.
She is used to feeling wronged. Feeling small.
She isn’t used to feeling like she made someone else feel small. It feels bad, and the bad is growing with every step, every turn in the trail.
She tells herself: You don’t even know Rachel. After this week, you’ll never see her again.
She accuses herself: You didn’t even try to know her. Now you won’t get to know her. And for once, it’s your fault.
She reminds herself: People are cruel. Rachel could turn out the same as Luke.
She adds, small and quiet: Maybe not everyone is cruel. Maybe some people are as lost as you.
And they walk, Hallelujah’s worried thinking and Rachel’s sad silence and Jonah’s sullen stomping getting louder and louder. The roar inside Hallelujah’s head drowns out the sound of the nearby creek and the birds chirping and the wind rustling branches above. Until she’s thinking, but still not saying, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Dorothy Dreyer, Colleen Houck, Carly Anne West, Kate Brauning, Lydia Kang, Joshua David Bellin, Heather Demetrios, Kathryn Holmes, Romily Bernard, Martina Boone, Dhonielle Clayton, Victoria Strauss, Trisha Leaver, William Powell, Christine Norris, Gwenda Bond, Kate Smith, Bree Despain, Lisa T. Bergren, Suzanne Lazear