12.22.2006

HH Com 343

Newly pregnant, Rachel Harkins sees the summer before she becomes a mom as her final chance to “make a difference.” She volunteers to chaperone a wilderness adventure trip for teenagers transitioning from a Raleigh juvenile detention facility. Five days bushwhacking in high-summer North Carolina underbrush equals hell for a city girl, but Rachel wills herself to face lethal humidity, 70-pound backpacks, and clouds of biting insects. What she never dreams is that she’ll leave at home a husband who is angry and rigid with concern over the safety of their unborn child. And how could she guess that the kids she wants to help will hate her?

Not only is a seventeen-year-old threatening to “ice her ass,” but the group gets lost in the Black Mountains. Someone sabotages the supplies, and one by one the other chaperones disappear. Inexperienced and alone in her shaky authority, Rachel fights to connect with the group and lead them back to civilization. But under her charge, a boy dies in a strange accident, and all hopes of winning trust are lost. The teenagers mutiny, abandoning Rachel to face by herself the very real dangers of the wilderness, injury, and the likelihood that a killer is stalking herr every move. But Rachel can’t give up on the kids. Knowing the sensible thing is try to save herself and her baby, Rachel’s sense of self-preservation are pitted against her sense of duty for children determined to resist her help.

You're going to be hardpressed to have Rachel be sympathetic. She sounds like a self absorbed idiot to me.

Who's the bad guy? the stalking killer? I'm rooting for him.

I'm not sure why you made her pregnant ( uh...that isn't exactly what it sounds like) and I'm not sure what the stakes and the conflict are exactly.

The problem isn't the hook, I fear; it's the novel.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The tension between protecting herself and baby v. protecting the (not nice) kids in her care works for me. That's interesting.

I admit I need a little help understanding why she would choose to do this during pregnancy, or see it as the "last chance" to have an impact for good. Surely there will be many opportunities for good in her life. Yes, from age 0-3 babies can suck the energy out of a parent, but there are an awful lot of years after that (and, by the way, I remember doing a lot of charity work while my oldest was a baby). And of all the ways to "do good", choosing something so physically challenging while pregnant is baffling to me. I know there are women who sail through pregnancies without feeling ill or weak, and I applaud them! It's just so far removed from my personal experience (pregnancy was DRAINING)that I need some really explicit description/explanation to get me there. (I know there isn't room for that in a hook, but I would need it in the book.)

What would resonate more easily for me is the idea of doing some adventurous thing just *before* becoming pregnant. One last dangerous/exciting trip before going off birth control, that sort of thing. I can more easily understand someone being ready to give up dangerous activities once one becomes a parent, than someone choosing to give up being helpful and involved in the community once a parent.

Anyway, my 2 cents. No doubt other people have different strong feelings about pregnancy/parenthood from their own experiences.

Anonymous said...

Dude, the Black Mountains are covered by Cingular. Raise the bar and call for help on your cell phone.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

My first pregnancy was amazingly easy, but even in the shape I was in at the time, I can't see my doctors being comfortable with my doing something like this. "Don't fall" was what they said when I wanted to keep ice skating; I can't imagine adding a 70-pound pack and a narrow trail to the mix.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't buy her doing this while she is pregnant. You have dr. appointments, and I was too tired by mid-day during my pregnancy to dial up for take-out much less hike. This says to me that you've never been pregnant and don't know many people who have become pregnant.
Perhaps the better tact is the 'right before' getting pregnant angle as previously mentioned. Even if she is doing it to avoid getting pregnant to give her more time to think or something.

Zany Mom said...

LOL, Susan, about the ice skating! I kept at it until 37 weeks. My doctor said 'don't fall', then said, 'I don't wanna know about it anymore!' LOL.

With my son I felt like crap for 9 months.

I like this idea a LOT. Sort of reminds me of a MacGyver episode. What if she embarks on this not knowing she's pregnant yet? A woman I did a marathon with found out AFTER the marathon that she was pregnant during it.

Anonymous said...

I fear you have not been pregnant.

Even as a black belt in karate and an avid hiker, I can't see doing this during either of my pregnancies. If my body hadn't betrayed me, the hormonal nightmares and fears would have.

I don't believe you & that's what kills it.

j h woodyatt said...

The story might work better if Rachel is sterile.

Writerious said...

A 70 lb backpack on a pregnant woman?

No, absolutely not. On a wilderness trip, your backpack should weigh no more than about 25-30% of your body weight, at the lower end for an inexperienced hiker. Unless you really want this gal to be a 280 pound linebacker, scale back that backpack!

My son, the Eagle Scout, can give her his packing demonstration that he's done for the new Johnnies in his troop many times.

Anonymous said...

All that and morning sickness, too.

Are ALL the juvies horrible, faceless jerks? Might a couple of them side with her? In a co-ed group female solidarity is allowed.

Yo! Cell phones. GPS locators. Park rangers. Other hikers. Flare guns. Trail huts. Search 'copters. Someone with a lick of common sense. Dude, I saw this survival show, and the guy said find a stream and jus' keep walkin' downhill.

Lot of problems to get past. She doesn't need a cliche of a PO'd hubby at home on top of the rest.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the chorus of--She's newly pregnant so she volunteers for a wilderness hike? Um---No. The early days of prenancy bring wild hormones, tiredness, morning sickness. Backpacking? I can't fathom that. I'm an active person and I did some light sports early on, but roughing on a wilderness trip? Simply unbelievable.

shelby said...

I might suggest doing some more research on wilderness treks for troubled teens. I know a couple of people who used to work on them, and the companies who run them are pretty rigid in their hiring practices. A pregnant woman would never be allowed to participate. The only way to make the pregnancy work is if she thinks she's infertile and then suspects she's pregnant along the way. Also, the hiring company would have given her some serious training about how to deal with troubled teens, since mutiny and getting lost are a given.

As far as the cell phone/GPS problem--well that one's easy. The whole point of these "adventures" is to make the teens self-reliant. When my friends worked them, before cell phones existed, they took no communication with the outside world (which is also why they were well-trained). The author says, "someone sabotages the supplies" which means, to me, that some kid stole and/or destroyed the cell phone, GPS system, and while he's at it--all of the maps. If Rachel is inexperienced and she's separated from those who know what they're doing, she's screwed. Perhaps the author could make this more explicit in the hook.

Still, there's going to be a fine line between engaging and cliche'. Your research into backpacking and survival skills, and adventure camp protocol will need to be impeccable (proper pack weight is a good start). There is certainly a process to be followed when someone dies, and you're going to have to find some good ways around that.

Keep at it though. Concentrate on making the novel an original one, and if you've done your research on specifics, put a little more detail in.

skybluepinkrose said...

She sees the summer before she becomes a mom as her FINAL chance to make a difference?

I'm sorry; I'm gone right there. I can't like someone this clueless. And the rest of it just elaborates how clueless. I fear for her kid.

December Quinn said...

I agree. A woman just starting her first pregnancy wouldn't do this, and even if she wanted to chances are her doc wouldn't allow it.

I agree with 1st anon. Having her discover her pregnancy while camping would add waaay more drama too.

Aside from that--I think this sounds really exciting and good.

ghostmommylady said...

You lost me with her being pregnant and going on this hike. Forget about it. Pregnancy does many things to a woman's body. Even if she's in the best health ever it will wear her down. And if this is her last chance to do good, she needs to catch up with society and come to realize that just because she's a mom doesn't mean her life is over. (So says the mom of three who does indeed have a life outside of her kids - even if it is a wee bit sporadic at times.)

Actually, this whole premise has so many holes in it - all of which have been pointed out by Miss Snark and the other commenters - that I can safely say I'd never read this past the blurb on the back.

platedlizard said...

I remember, as a kid, spending nights at a homeless shelter because my parents were volunteering there as chaperons. I was nine or ten, my sister was six or seven. We had a blast.

There is no reason why having a kid would make it impossible to save the world, so to speak. Why doesn't she do this trip and drag her own teenage kid along with her? Forget the perils of pregnancy, what makes her think that this is the last chance she has to do good?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I'm siding with the husband on this one.

Anonymous said...

I like a lot about this story, and would probably read a bit if I came across it in a bookstore. But, the pregnancy thing gets me too. I love the idea of her taking a final trip before becoming pregnant, as a way of putting her husband off. No wonder he's irritated at home.

My husband and I went on a nice vacation before ceasing birth control, because we felt like it was the last time to do something just for us, with no one else to consider. Ironically, of course, we ended up being infertile, so we didn't have children until we'd endured four years of treatments. But, lucky me, I got a second "last" trip out of the deal.