The Atlas of Us

The Atlas of Us by Kristin Dwyer is about a teen looking for escape in the wilderness. Atlas James has lost her father to cancer and has fallen into a cycle of grief and bad choices that she’s seeking refuge from when she joins the Bear Creek Community Service program, cleaning up the Sierra Mountain hiking trails in California. It’s both a way for her to honor her father, who loved the mountains, and a fresh start. Plus, fresh starts are what the program specializes in: many of the kids are there as part of a court-ordered program and Atlas, although she volunteered, gets the nickname Maps so that she, like everyone else in the program, can come to the mountains with a blank slate. The volunteer work is physically demanding, and Atlas’s grief is still heavy, but she’s drawn to trail leader King and the camaraderie with her trail mates helps ease her burden.