Vale loves to hike, but kind of hates her classmates. Ash is okay with his classmates, but kind of hates the outdoors. So, needless to say they are both fairly certain that the overnight nature hike with their PE class is going to be a hellish experience. But when they get separated from the group during a storm, they have worse things to worry about than bullies and blisters.
Lost in the Canadian wilderness with limited supplies, caught in dangerous weather conditions, and surrounded by deadly wildlife, it's going to take every bit of strength, skill, and luck they can muster to survive.
Praise for Danika Stone:
"An enjoyable, fast-paced read." — School Library Journal on Internet Famous
"The book is a dream. I loved absolutely everything about it. ... From the chapter headers to every mention of nerd culture, All the Feels is a blast!" —Seeking Book Boyfriends on All the Feels
Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||5.52(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.94(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it."
JANIS IAN, MEAN GIRLS
VALE STARED AT the clock, waiting for the alarm to ring.
Dread filled her limbs, the stress that had built over the past few weeks a physical ache. Today was the "outback adventure" to Waterton Lakes National Park. The digital characters flickered and she winced.
Is it too late to claim I got the plague?
It wasn't that Vale hated hiking. Quite the opposite, in fact. She loved camping with her family and exploring Lethbridge's river bottom on weekends. She had at least ten nature books sitting on her bedroom dresser. No, Vale's dread stemmed from her classmates.
Barring Ashton Hamid, her best friend since kindergarten, no one in her class even spoke to her. Vale hadn't clicked with anyone in the past month and a half since school began, making tenth grade twice as unpleasant as ninth had been. Two days with her PE classmates meant two days of snide remarks. Two days of rude comments. Two days of hell.
She opened one eye to check the clock's readout.
Vale pulled the pillow over her face and groaned. Why is phys ed a course requirement for a high school diploma? I'll NEVER use it again! Vale had an A average in every other class she was in, but in PE she was fighting to hold on to a B minus. Only Ash, with a dismal C, had a worse grade. "My epic gaming skills make up for my complete lack of athletic abilities," he'd once told her. She wished she shared his attitude.
The sound of distant music filtered past her pillow. Vale's mother was downstairs in the kitchen, the radio tuned to a retro nineties station as she sang along to the songs of her youth. From the bathroom at the end of the hall a blow-dryer roared to life. One of Vale's older sisters had started her morning routine. Vale's phone buzzed on her dresser, and she reached out, fumbling blindly. She opened one eye.
On-screen, a text from Ash glowed.
OMGGGG [??] Can't find the checklist. HELP ME VALE!!!
Another text buzzed through before she'd finished reading the first.
WHY doesn't Holland have it on the websiter?!? WHAT YEAR IS SHE LIVING IN?!!!! [??]
Vale giggled. Ash was in freak-out mode. (Again.) She put her thumb to the screen to type in a reply.
Relax. Sending you the list now. You can handle this.
No! Nooooooo! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I CAN'T!
Yes, Ash. You can.
I WILL DIE IN THE WOODS.
No you won't.
I WILL! I haven't even started packing yet!
WHAT???! But I TOLD you to pack when I left!
I got distracted by the campaign.
Then you need to START.
BUT VAAAAAAAAAALLLLE! I don't WANT to go! [??]
Stop texting and PACK.
With a sigh, she set the phone back down. She glanced at the clock just as the digits flickered.
A pop song blared to life on the clock radio. Vale grumbled as her cat, Mr. Bananas, yawned and stretched, then launched himself from the bed. Mr. Bananas jiggled open the unlatched door and padded down the hall, tail twitching.
Vale groped for the snooze button. "Not today, Satan. Not today."
For five more minutes, she stayed under the covers until a new text buzzed through. Ash again.
I'm going to try the sick angle on my mom.
Vale took a hissing breath, her thumbs blurring over the screen.
Don't you DARE! You promised you were coming!
Vale added a second reply.
BFFs don't ditch BFFs on field trips, do they? NOW GET PACKING.
With a smirk, Vale sent it off, but this time Ash didn't answer. She stared at the phone's screen for several long seconds. Her smile faded. What if he ditches after all? The thought left her struggling to breathe. Ash's attendance track record was less than stellar, and while Vale had many online friends, only one person was there at school each day — Ash — and she'd just yelled at him. What if his mom lets him stay home?
The bedroom door swung open. "Rise and shine, sleepyhead," her mother said in a cheery voice. A second later, Vale felt Mr. Bananas jump back up onto the bed and walk up her legs. "You've got to get moving, Vale. It's your Waterton adventure. Remember?"
Vale groaned and pulled the covers over her head. "Like I could forget."
Her mother came around the side of the bed, and Vale felt the mattress dip as she sat down. The cat began to purr. "Valeria," her mother said gently. "You're worrying about nothing."
"It's not the hiking that worries me. It's the people." Vale tugged the blankets off her face. "The kids in my class hate me."
"They don't hate you."
"Then hang out with Ashton. He's coming along, right?"
She and Ash had been friends forever. He didn't mind that Vale was at the bottom of the high school pecking order, and she never minded that he was a full-time gamer with questionable hygiene. They clicked when no one else did. But Ash wasn't the only one coming on the trip ...
Vale glanced at her phone's screen. No answer yet. "Yes," she said with a sigh. "As far as I know, he's still coming, but —"
"Stick it out and you'll be fine. It's only two days of —"
"Pure and utter torture. Boys harassing me. Making fun of each and every —"
"There are three chaperones going. Three," her mother interrupted. "If you have an issue with those kids again, just tell someone."
"It's not that simple."
"It is. Teachers are paid to deal with things like that." Her mother frowned. "Honestly, I think you're being overly sensitive."
Vale wanted to argue, but she knew it was useless. Her mother saw high school troubles through the rosy-hued glasses of someone who'd been popular. Vale's mother was a onetime cheerleader and homecoming queen; she'd married her high school sweetheart. Truth was, Vale's mother had no idea what actual high school was like. She might as well have grown up in a television sitcom!
"I bet Mike teases because he's got a crush on you. If you paid him a little attention —"
"Mom, STOP!" This was another thing Vale's mother never understood: Vale was aro-ace, both aromantic and asexual. She'd told her parents she just wasn't interested in dating any number of times ... But they never seemed to get it. To them, Vale's sexuality was a "phase" that they were certain she would one day outgrow. Their obliviousness was a raw spot for Vale. "That's not why Mike bugs me," she said. "He's a jerk. He always has been. Same with his friends."
"Then stick with Ash."
"I will," Vale said, "but there are only so many times I can listen to a recap of Outer Realm Annihilation without falling into a coma."
Her mother broke into a peal of laughter so bright and happy that for a moment Vale could see why everyone loved her so much. Her mother was full of joy. If Vale had been in high school in 1999, she would have idolized Debra too.
"Don't sound so grumpy, Vale." Her mother tousled the top of her daughter's hair. "You'll love it once you're out there." She turned back in the doorway. "And if Mike teases you, try talking to him, sweetheart. You never know where it'll —"
"Nope," Vale said. This was the sort of willful ignorance that frustrated her: The suggestion that she'd fall for a guy if she'd just give him a chance to prove himself. "That's not going to happen, Mom."
"Oh, Vale, come on. You'll have a great time with your class."
"I highly doubt that."
Her mother sighed and closed the door.
* * *
It was 7:15 when Vale arrived at the school parking lot. With all the excitement of someone on their way to the electric chair, she joined the line of students on the sidewalk. She scanned the crowd, and her smile disappeared. Ash was late ... really late. Perhaps he had persuaded his mother he was sick after all. Panic flared — sharp- edged and fluttering — within her chest. That would mean having no one to buffer her from Mike and Brodie's harassment.
Vale pulled out her phone. Seeing nothing waiting on-screen from Ash, her frown deepened.
She typed in a quick text.
You packed yet? I'm already at school.
She hit send and waited. Nothing happened. Ash was either off his phone (a scientific impossibility) or not answering his texts. The uneasy feeling in her chest grew. What if he skips out?
Suddenly her phone buzzed, and Vale scrambled to check it. A message from Bella waited on-screen.
Just posted my latest aro-ace vlog, if you want to take a peek!
Vale and Bella had met online two years earlier, when Vale had sought out an online community for support. Bella, living in another city, had been one of the first people Vale had clicked with. Their friendship had kept Vale afloat through her torturous middle school years, and on any other day of the week, Bella and Vale texted almost as much as Vale and Ash did. Today, Bella's support wasn't going to cut it.
Vale tapped in a one-handed reply, then hit send.
Can't look at it today, B. The highlight of the high school PE program is about to begin.
For twenty seconds there was nothing and then ...
Wait. You're heading off today??? I thought your trip was tomorrow!
Nope. Just about to leave.
Sorry! That sucks.
You KNOW it. Forecast says rain. Maybe even snow. (I have a coat and scarf though.)
Before Bella could reply, Ms. Holland, their physical education teacher, strode out of the school. Vale's thumbs blurred over the screen.
Ugh. HELLand just got here.
Okay. Ping me when you're back. Have an AMAZING time, V!
Your friend Ash is coming along with you, right?
Scowling, Vale typed in a quick answer.
Supposedly-but he's not here yet.
Yikes! What happened???
Looks like he ditched. I'm flying solo.
Sorry Vale! That sucks.
SRSLY. Got to go. The phone police are on the way.
Vale hit send and slid the phone deep into her jacket pocket as the teacher neared. Around her, other students did the same. Ms. Holland carried a large purple Tupperware container under one muscled arm.
"You know the routine," she said. "Phones out. Put them in the box." A chorus of moans filled the early morning air.
Inside Vale's pocket, her phone buzzed as a new text arrived, but she didn't take it out to check.
"Vale?" Ms. Holland said. "Your phone."
"What if something happens on the trip, and I need to contact my parents?" Vale asked.
"There won't be any reception where we're hiking. Your phone's dead weight."
"What if I want to take a picture?"
"The permission letter expressly said 'no phones.' You want pictures? You should have brought a camera."
"But Ms. Holland —"
"Because last time I led a group on an 'outback adventure,' a student lost her phone in the woods and we wasted four hours looking for it. Didn't reach the buses until dark." Ms. Holland shook the purple container. "Best bet is to leave them here. You can have your phone back when we return tomorrow."
"Fine." With a resigned sigh, Vale dropped her phone into the box.
She stepped out of line just as a rusted orange Honda with a mismatched blue door came to a squealing stop on the street. A disheveled-looking teen tumbled out of the driver's seat. "WAIT!" Ash shouted. "Wait for me!" He grabbed a hastily filled backpack with clothing hanging half out of it, slammed the door with his knee, then sprinted forward, cell phone held aloft.
The tension in Vale's chest released, and a wide grin broke across her face. Ash came after all!
If Ashton Hamid had a Patronus, it was an overgrown Great Dane. He was all long arms and knobby-kneed legs, bony elbows and size-sixteen feet. The resemblance extended to his face too. His brown eyes seemed perennially tired, punctuated by drooping lids and sloping black brows. Chin-length hair flopped over his eyes and behind his ears. His clothes — bought to fit his six-and-a-half-foot frame — always looked three sizes too big.
"Woo-hoo! I made it!" Ash shouted as he ran toward the class. "Ms. Holland! MS. HOLLAND! I'm —"
Halfway across the parking lot, he tripped over his untied laces and his bag tumbled to the ground, spewing clothing across the pavement. Kids laughed. (Whether it was intentional or not, he often played the role of comic relief for the class.) Ash grinned as he grabbed his pack off the ground and jammed a dropped sweatshirt and socks back inside, then half jogged, half skipped to Vale's side. Laughter filled the air.
"Nice entrance," she said. "You might get a standing ovation next time."
He did a stage bow. "It's all in the timing."
"Timing, hmm?" She giggled. "I thought it was untied laces."
"They're my signature, you know. Pure class."
Vale laughed "Classy is not the word that came to mind. It looks more like you —"
Her words were cut off by a grating voice. "Hashbrown! You made it. Thought we were gonna have to leave without you!"
Vale flinched. Mike. On the first day of ninth grade, Ash had dropped a plate full of hash browns in the middle of the school's cafeteria. Mike spent a solid month harassing Ash about the incident and his teasing had spawned a nickname: Hashbrown. It stuck.
Ash turned and grinned. "Hey, man! Good to see ya."
"Figured you were skipping out!"
"Nah ... just late as usual," Ash said. "You know how it is."
"Not as much as YOU do," Mike said, punching Ash's shoulder.
Ash took a ninja pose, and the kids around him giggled. "What can I say?" he said. "Slacking's a skill. One I have honed through my many years of practice."
"A skill, huh?" Mike snorted.
"Absolutely. Let me teach you my ways, young grasshopper."
Mike cackled as Vale rolled her eyes.
Ash had the gift of laughter. Everyone he met was his friend, even those hardened students who seemed to revel in torturing others. Ash seemed immune. He went along with Mike's teasing — turning the barbs into self-effacing jokes. Even though Vale knew Mike was trolling Ash, she admired that the stupid comments never bothered him. She wished she had the ability to do the same.
"Brodie, Ethan, and me already claimed the back seats in the bus," Mike said. "Good view of the girls in the class." He waggled his eyebrows. "You joining us?"
Ash's gaze flicked to Vale almost too fast to see. "Nah, I'm good," he said with a grin. "Gotta grab a few Zs before we hit the trail."
"Well, if you're planning to sleep, ain't nothing better than hanging with Valley Girl," Mike snorted. "She's a certified sleep aide."
"Go away, Mike," Vale said coldly.
He laughed. "Or what? You gonna lecture me to death?"
She shot him a dirty look. "I could start now, if you'd like."
Ash's head wobbled, and he held out his arms like a sleepwalker. "I'm feeling sleepy ... so sleepy ...," he droned.
Vale glared. "Not funny, Ash." She hated when he went along with the teasing.
"Yeah, Hashbrown! That's how it is!" Mike punched his shoulder. "So you gonna hang out with me and the boys or what? Come on. It's gonna be great!"
"Nah, I'm good, man." Ash dipped his chin. "I'm not kidding about having a nap."
"Your loss, buddy!"
Ash turned back to Vale as Mike headed off to his group of friends. For a moment, Vale considered telling Ash that she didn't appreciate the joke at her expense, but he was grinning, so she set it aside. Ash did hang out with her. That's what matters, isn't it?
"So what did I miss?" Ash asked.
"Not much. Holland's got her box and —"
"There you are, Ashton." Ms. Holland stepped away from the other students toward the two of them.
"Hey, Ms. H! Thanks for waiting for me."
"You're late," she said. "The bus is already loaded. Five more minutes and we would've been gone."
"Sorry," he said, hoisting his pack onto his shoulder. "I forgot my phone in the house and had to double back. Didn't Vale tell you?"
Vale opened her mouth to answer, but Ms. Holland was faster. She held out the purple container. "Well, I'm glad you found it, Ashton. Now in it goes ..." With a sigh, Ash dropped the phone in.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Switchback"
Copyright © 2019 Karin Goble.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.