Death has a different impact on us all. Some drown in sorrow and others simply go numb. When Toby’s best friend Lucas dies, he blames himself for the accident that killed him. Toby’s form of grieving involves fulfilling a promise, though. Toby and Lucas had made The List, a collection of fun things that they wanted to do together before the end of summer, a sort of bucket list. The List includes things like going fishing, building a treehouse, and eating a worm. The last thing on The List is to “Hike the Appalachian Trail, from Velvet Rocks to Katahdin” (19).
After Lucas dies, Toby decides to finish The List on his own. He packs his supplies, sneaks out of his Gran’s house, and sets out on the trail to hike to Katahdin. Toby’s not exactly inexperienced, but as he hikes, his self doubt tries to cripple him. Alone in the woods, all he can do is think about his mistakes and shortcomings. Sometimes, Toby thinks that all he is is “Just a tragic result waiting to happen” (24). His outlook changes when he comes upon a dog in the woods. The dog, skinny and dirty, saves him from a moose and from then on, the dog is called Moose and joins Toby on his journey. Sometimes having a friend makes all the difference.
Toby and Moose run into two older boys hiking and their friendship brings back painful memories of Lucas. The boys, Sean and Denver, have an interesting relationship that Toby steadily becomes involved in as they continue to see each other on the trail. Learning to trust himself and new friends like Sean and Denver is a tough task, but Toby soon learns that “Being alone is not the same as lonely” (48).
At first glance, Meika Hashimoto’s The Trail seems to be your run of the mill Boy and Dog Go Hiking tale. As the novel continues though, it becomes clear that Hashimoto is writing a much deeper story. Toby not only struggles with loss and guilt, but with a lack of confidence that becomes dangerous. The Trail is not just a story about hiking. It’s a story about what it takes to love yourself.
Toby’s caution is endearing, especially when confronted with the sorts of trouble he gets into throughout the story. The supporting characters are also well written. Toby meets quite a few people on the trail, but none of them take attention away from his journey. Instead, they offer new perspectives and allow Toby’s character to gain more depth. The Trail starts as a story of a boy keeping a promise, but it becomes a sort of reflection on relationships, both human and canine. Toby’s adventure is long and dangerous, but it’s also fresh and inspiring.
- Posted by Abriana