Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Running Dream - Wendelin Van Draanen

Summary:  Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.  (Summary from and image from

My Review:  This book came to my attention two years ago, not long after it was released.  I'm a runner--not a competitive runner, but a daily runner.  And since I'm a YA reader for my job as a teacher, this book spoke to me before I even cracked the cover.  Jessica loses her leg after a freak accident after a track meet.  And being a gifted runner, this makes her world, her hopes and dreams, come crashing down.  And yet, this book is hopeful.

This is what I love so much about this book.  It's complex despite the simplistic idea of overcoming an injury that takes a limb.  Jessica's story is more than just recovering; it's about accepting herself, loving herself in her new form, learning to run again, and learning to love others on a deeper level.

Jessica's teenage attitude is authentic as well.  She's angry--quite understandably--and frustrated.  And yet, it's not hard to read about.  It's easy to relate to her and you learn to love all the flawed people in her life.  I think that's what makes the book all the more compelling: the characters are so deep, so layered, so real.

And then there's her community.  I love the idea of a community coming together to rally around each other.  I wish I could share this book with everyone.  We all won't go through the experience of losing a limb, but we'll all have difficulties we need to conquer.  And Jessica's story shares how although this is hard, it's worth it.

I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  I don't remember anything offensive.  Jessica is negative in the beginning after what happens to her, but it's reasonable and seems like normal teenage attitude.

Sum it up: One courageous triumph over tragedy.

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