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the distance


lost and

All sophomore Hallie Calhoun wants is to be left alone. Six months ago, the preacher’s son, Luke
Willis, made her an outcast by spreading lies about what happened between them. Now, on a youth
group camping trip in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Hallie is surrounded by Luke and all of
his friends, whose incessant bullying has made her life miserable.
During a group hike in the mountains, Hallie loses the trail. With her are Jonah, a former friend who
stopped talking to her when the lies started, and Rachel, a new girl. As days pass with no sign of
help, the three realize just how dire their situation is. When bad circumstances turn deadly, it’s up
to Hallie to find the strength she never believed she had . . . and to finally speak up about the night
that Luke has been lying about all along.

1. What were your first thoughts on Hallelujah’s character? Is she strong because she endures
the bullying, or weak because she stays quiet?
2. If you were in Hallelujah’s position at the campfire—getting harassed by peers—what
would you do? Does her reaction make the situation better or worse, in your opinion?
3. What gives Luke the power over Hallie to bully her? If he wasn’t the preacher’s son, do you
think people would still believe his story over Hallelujah’s? Why?
4. How has Hallelujah’s parents’ reaction to what happened between her and Luke affected the
way she views the situation? Do her parents help or hinder her?

5. The way Hallie’s peers damage her reputation takes a toll on her self-esteem and also affects
her ability to trust. Call upon a few instances that reflect this.
6. When Hallelujah, Jonah, and Rachel get separated from the group, the terrain of the forest
around them proves dangerous. What are the parallels between the unpredictability of
nature and the taunting that Hallelujah experiences from her peers?
7. What does Rachel’s confession about her home life say about her outgoing personality?
8. How has what happened between Hallie and Luke affected the way Hallie views the religion
she’s been raised to follow? Why?
9. During “The Fourth Day,” Hallie is overcome with a feeling that everything is going to be
okay. Where do you think this burst of hope comes from? What role does hope play
throughout the novel?
10. Throughout their journey, the fear of never making it home looms. In what ways does this
fear manifest itself in Hallie’s, Jonah’s, and Rachel’s behavior? What does each character’s
reaction say about them?
11. After Luke spread the lies about Hallie, his pack of friends seem to back him up, while
Hallie’s friends abandoned her. Why do you think that is? Do you think this is an accurate
depiction of high school politics?
12. During “The Fourth Day,” Hallie says, “Maybe it’s okay that things are so bad because we’re
where we’re supposed to be . . . maybe there’s a plan” (p. 149–150). What do you think she
means by this? What was each character “supposed” to do?
13. How do Hallie’s opinions of people in her life change after she finally opens up to Jonah and
Rachel about what happened to her? What does it make her realize about her parents,
Jonah, Luke, and herself?
14. Do you think what Luke did to Hallelujah is common among teens? In any instances that you
may know of personally, what becomes of the parties involved? Does Hallelujah’s story
change or solidify your view on rumors?
15. When Jonah hears Hallelujah’s version of what happened between her and Luke, he says,
“I’m gonna kill him” (p. 165). Do you think Jonah may have suspected what kind of person
Luke was, or did Jonah’s crush on Hallelujah affect the way he saw the situation? Does the
text give clues to how credible a character Luke is?

16. How does Hallie’s past relationship with Luke affect the way she allows—or doesn’t allow—
herself to feel about Jonah? Do you think she is right to feel this way?
17. In “The Fifth Day,” Jonah says, “I know too many people who are one thing when they think
it matters and another thing the rest of the time” (p. 189). Think about how this sentiment
pertains to the characters in this book. Do you know people like this?
18. While stranded in the wilderness, Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel encounter many close calls.
Which do you think was the scariest, and why?
19. Discuss Hallelujah’s relationship with singing and how it changed before and after the
incident with Luke. Explain the significance of the scene when Hallie sings in “The Sixth
Day” chapter.
20. How does Hallelujah’s encounter with Luke in “The Seventh Day” chapter show that she has
changed? Was her confrontation satisfying to you as a reader?
21. Name a few different ways that Hallelujah benefitted from getting lost in the Smoky
Mountains. Would these instances have had the same outcome if she had gotten lost alone?
Explain your position.