In my recently revived obsession with the Appalachian Trail, I picked up Nature Girl, by Jane Kelley from the library. It's meant for kids ages 9-12 or so, and perhaps it's just the AT part of the story that captivates me, but I have to admit I really liked it.
It's the story of a 6th grade girl, Megan, who is NOT a nature girl. She is the complete opposite, despite the fact that her parents are old school hippies trying to make her eat tofu and revere ART. After a series of bad situations at their summer vacation home in Vermont, Megan and her little dog, lost in the woods, stumble upon the AT. In rebellion she decides to start hiking, with hopes of making it to Mt Greylock, Massachusetts, and reuniting with her best friend.
It is a pretty predictable story, but somehow you can overlook that as you follow Megan and Arp through the real and basic challenges of what it would be like to enter the Woods and truly experience it for the first time. The fears, the bugs, the lack of food and water, and the complete misjudgement of how long it takes to walk somewhere. Megan is of course, disheartened by the difficulty of her undertaking, but refuses to quit, even hides from the search parties, to prove her worth and ability to her family and friends.
In all it's simplicity, it is a pretty compelling read. You keep going to find out how this girl changes, what she learns, and the transformation she undergoes in her week long hike. Which is, in all things AT, the essence of the experience. This book captures this truth so clearly it made me cry. Megan becomes the Nature Girl she never dreamed she could be, simply because she opened up to the possibility the Woods offered her. The AT is like that, it changes people, even fictional ones.