Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

On her way home from a track meet, Jessica loses part of her leg in a school bus accident. For her, the thought of never running again makes her want to curl up and die. There are many dark days for her at the beginning of her recovery but after she stops feeling sorry for herself, she begins making speedy progress to walking again. Soon her coach and track team show her that her dream of running again might not be that far fetched after all...

I am on a role reading awesome books this summer. At first the story was incredibly depressing. It felt like we were journeying through Jessica's dark night of the soul with her. But as the novel progressed, it got more and more hopeful. When she stopped feeling sorry for herself, Jessica became a force to be reckoned with. 

I am someone who hates running with a passion. I want to like it so bad. I have tried on several different occasions to like it, but I just can't force myself to do it. So despite my distaste for running, I still loved this book. All of the characters and situations are so masterfully written that every scene manages to stir up some sort of  clear emotion within the reader whether it was love, fondness, frustration or even all-out hate (Jessica's biggest rival for example was someone I would have loved to smack upside the head).  The first few pages give the reader an indication of just what is so appealing about running for Jessica when she describes what running did for her as a person. She said, "Running aired out my soul." I mean wow! What a statement. Those five words alone made me want to attempt to take up running again. And for me, the mark of a successful book is one that I still want to live inside of even after I finish it. It's been a few days since I finished this book and I am still living with Jessica. I can't let go of her.

This book can appeal to a wide swath of readers: whether it's runners or athletes in general, people overcoming physical disabilities, readers who know a friend or family member who had to overcome a physical disability, or anyone who just likes reading stories of overcoming adversity. The gender neutral cover also ensures that boys will not be reluctant to pick it up, something I am rallying for more of in children's and YA lit these days.

What I also loved about this book is while it is categorized as YA for the simple fact that the main character is in high school, it could easily be read by students in younger grades (late elementary, middle school) for the simple fact that it is a clean read (which makes sense since it's a Schneider Family Book Award winner). I will definitely be recommending this book to my students when school starts up again in September, especially anyone in need of a little inspiration. 

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Published: January 11, 2011
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 332
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult/Middle Grade
Disclosure: Library Book

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