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Spencer Hyde

What the Other Three Don't Know

Shadow Mountain, 2020

If Indie had it her way, she would never choose to river raft with three other high school seniors, mostly strangers to each other, from her journalism class.

A loner, a jock, an outsider, an Instagram influencer. At first they can’t see anything that they have in common. As the trip unfolds, the unpredictable river forces them to rely on each other. Social masks start to fall as, one-by-one, each teen reveals a deep secret the other three don t know.

One is harboring immense grief and unwilling to forgive after the death of a loved one. One is dealing with a new disability and an uncertain future. One is fearful of the repercussions of coming out. One is hiding behind a carefully curated perfect image on Instagram.

Before they get to the end of Hells Canyon, they’ll know the truth about each other and, more importantly, learn something new about themselves.

Review by Karen Brown at Faculty Book Lunch

In Spencer Hyde’s newest YA novel, What the Other Three Don’t Know, four teenagers—seemingly opposites in every way—are brought together as part of a journalism class summer bonding experience. Their assigned adventure: to navigate a 5-day journey through Hells Canyon together. Little do they know that this will require them to navigate their emotions, their beliefs and their best kept secrets as much as the actual rapids. I was worried that I would struggle getting into Hyde’s story given that I am not a climber, a river-runner, or a fly fisher. But Hyde’s gorgeous descriptions, his understanding of people and his ability to bring his reader right into the raft with his characters made my trip down the river a breathtaking, thrilling, and—at some points—even frightening journey.

The story is told from the point of view of Indie who is less than thrilled about having to run the same rapids that led to her mother’s death just two years earlier. Even worse, she discovers that the group’s river guide, Nash, is the man she holds responsible for her mother’s death. Indie’s group also includes Skye, by all appearances the golden-boy jock, who is learning how to deal with his new prosthetic leg, the loss of his athletic scholarships as a result, and a future that seems unreachable and unclear. There is also Shelby, who frustrates the rest of the group by not being able to tear herself away from her phone because of her need to keep up appearances as a social media influencer, and Wyatt, a hatchet-throwing prepper who seems unafraid of anything—except for acknowledging who he really is.

Along with the four teenagers, there is another main character at the center of the novel—the river itself. Like the Mississippi in Huck Finn, the Snake River in What the Other Three Don’t Know acts as a center that brings characters together, helps them to see what they’re made of, and teaches lessons about life. Dr. Hyde writes, “That’s how time works. It’s a river that flows right past you. It doesn’t wait for you. You’re lucky if you manage to dip your hand in it and feel the cool currents as it passes.”

Unlike some readers, I am a corner folder. When I come across something that catches my eye or touches my soul, I automatically fold down the page corner. By the time I finished Hyde’s novel, my copy of the book looked like an accordion. I’d like to share a few of my favorite sections.

From Wyatt: “The world tells us we can’t be multiple things, but screw that. Be what you want. Be a particle and a wave. Light bends just like the river, but only when we see it correctly. One path is set until we decide to look, then it all changes. Maybe we are all just finally looking. “

From Indie: “Because even those we once hated can show us how to love. Because choices will always exist, and when they present themselves, I hope to always reach for the right hand. Because forgiveness is the real river we run in this life.”

Over the course of the novel, through laughter, tears, and harrowing experiences on the river, Hyde’s characters learn important truths about one another and about themselves. Indie sums up beautifully what she’s come to realize and what all of us would do well to remember: “I guess we all meet that second person who is inside of us, eventually. I wondered how I was like Skye and Wyatt and Shelby. They all lived with a duality, and it made sense that they could live their lives as more than one thing. We all had secrets that needed extra hands to carry, lives that needed that river run, darkness that needed light, weight that needed lightness.”

What the Other Three Don’t Know is about friendship, love, and forgiveness. In a world where sometimes it seems that self-absorption reigns, What the Other Three Don’t Know shows us that knowing oneself can actually be the door to charity and compassion.