Book Review: The Secrets We Bury
By: Stacie Ramey
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Contemporary
Dylan Taggert is running from his problems. He doesn't want to think about the past, his emotional/behavioral concerns, or the fact that his mother is trying to send him to a special school that will help better handle his emotions. Dylan simply wants to be left alone to make his own choices. Like many teens, he feels that he knows what is best for him and that his mother simply cannot understand everything that he thinks and feels. I remember that struggle all too well as I tottered on the line between youth and craving independence as I moved towards adulthood. It's not a time in life I would want to repeat, so I was empathetic to Dylan's situation. I wanted to fully understand the family drama and why it inspired the choice he made to run away. Also, as a teacher who has worked with students with a variety of special needs, I understood Dylan's emotional responses and atypical behavior. While Dylan wants to outrun the labels that have been placed on him by educators and doctors, he soon discovers we can never truly escapes ourselves.
Dylan only has a few months until he turns eighteen and his mother can no longer force the school issue. Dylan decides the perfect solution is to leave his home in Connecticut and travel to Georgia where he will begin a six month hike on the Appalachian Trail. I have to admit that this plot point was the entire reason I picked up this novel. I have always been fascinated by the Appalachian Trail and would love to hike portions of it. I couldn't wait to live vicariously through Dylan.
While Dylan is seeking solitude and time to sort through his thoughts, he ends up finding that the trail has a social network all its own. Hikers pick up trail names along the way and often become someone outside of their normal lives as they spend time on the trail. Dylan learns a lot about the trail culture including benefitting from trail magic in his first few days of hiking. It's in these first days that he meets an older man who is called Rain Man and a girl his age called Ghost. Rain Man is a legend on the trail and is rumored to have some of the best dehydrated food ever eaten. Dylan meets him by chance and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. Rain Man becomes a father figure of sorts for Dylan during his hike. Ghost, on the other hand, is a bit more elusive. Like Dylan, it is obvious that she is running away from something, but she doesn't talk much and she doesn't let anyone get too close. Dylan finds Ghost to be oddly fascinating and he finds himself looking for her more often than not.
Dylan (aka Wild Thing) and Ghost (aka Sophie) eventually are thrown together by stubbornness and mother nature. The pair bonds over their situation and a tentative bud of friendship blossoms.
The emphasis on the different forms of family has stuck in my mind since I finished reading this one. There are so many types of families and hopefully many of us are lucky to experience them. Dylan learns that the love and loyalty of the family you are born into is hard to ignore - even after you have done things that seem to have burnt the ties that connect you down to the last thread. Forgiveness lurks at the edges for all true families if you are only willing to search for it. In addition, friendship forges a type of familial bond that is also cemented with loyalty and affection. The friendships that are created on the Appalachian Trail often last for a lifetime. These networks of hikers look after one another and help when one of them is in need. Dylan goes from being a solitary being to finding that he is connected to so many who are better for their time with him.
I wasn't expecting to be so connected to Dylan and Sophie. I figured this would be another contemporary romance with a side of family drama, but it was truly so much more than that. Romance is present, but it takes a backseat to survival on the trail and two broken teens trying to find a way to piece themselves back together.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated with Dylan and Sophie for putting their parents through such concern and heartbreak.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved learning more about the culture that surrounds the Appalachian Trail.
First Sentence: Compulsively stirring my coffee in Nowhere, New Jersey, I recognize I'm going to have to do a lot of explaining when Emily gets here.
Favorite Character: Dylan
Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.
In an effort to escape his family, Dylan decides to hike the Appalachian trail—but he never expected to run into love.
Dylan Taggart is on the run. His family is trying to put him in a school for psychologically challenged students, and he gets it—he has anger issues. But Believers Charter School is a complete overreaction. So he decides a six-month hike on the Appalachian Trail is the perfect place to hide out until he can legally drop out of school.
Dylan wanted independence, but being alone on the trail is more than he bargained for. Then he meets a mysterious hiker named Sophie, and the two begin to develop a bond he never expected. But will love be enough to escape what they're both running from?