The Secrets We Bury

320p. Sourcebooks/Fire. Mar. 2018. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492654209.
Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Dylan Taggart tells people that he has issues. But he doesn't think he needs to be in a school for the psychologically challenged, as his mother and the school board believe. His father, one of the two people who understood him, died of a heart attack a year earlier. The other, his cousin Emily, has little official influence. Since Dylan's 18th birthday is just six months away, he decides to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Alone. It doesn't matter that he's never hiked before or even been interested in the outdoors. He just wants to go off the grid until he's old enough to make his own decisions. The only person he confides in is Emily, and she's against it. But he persuades her to help him choose gear and supplies. The night before he sets off, he meets some other, more experienced, hikers at the staging area. There is a trio of slightly older guys, and an older man called "Rain Man," whom everyone seems to know. He also meets a girl around his own age, whose trail name is "Ghost." The teen hikes alone, but encounters Ghost quite often, and is intrigued by her and Rain Man. The climax of the story is dramatic yet believable. Hiking the Appalachian trail might be an extreme way to prove his independence, yet he learns that compromise is fundamental to being a functional human being, something that might resonate with teens.
VERDICT This insightful, touching story is a strong purchase for libraries that serve young adults.

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