Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

The dream comes to her most nights: Jessica is up before the sun, running five easy miles with her dog, Sherlock.  She feels the cool morning air on her face, her leg muscles power her forward; life is as it should be.  But it's just a dream, because days ago, after setting a league record in the 400m (fifty-five seconds!), Jessica boarded the team bus to head back to school and her running dreams were shattered.  A junk hauler lost control of his truck and plowed into the side of the bus, killing her teammate and crushing her right foot and lower shin.  There was no choice but to amputate.  Angry, depressed and in pain, she wishes she were dead.  How will she ever run again? She can't even walk.

When the story opens, Jessica is laying in a hospital bed.  Her anguish is real. Her anger is palpable.  She doesn't consider herself lucky to be alive.  In the briefest of chapters she remembers her record-setting run and the accident that took her leg.  Divided into four parts, The Running Dream is the story of Jessica's travel on the road to recovery.  And it isn't easy.  There are setbacks.  One day she is hopeful; the next she can't face the thought of being around people.  But she does heal - emotionally and physically - and you are there with Jessica every step of the way to laugh and cry as she does.  Van Draanen has clearly done her homework.  From running scenes that show she has attended (perhaps even participated in?) high school track meets to medical scenes that reveal a great deal of research into prosthetics and how they work and feel, she has left no stone unturned.  The short, 1-3 page chapters make it a book that can be easily put down and picked back up again, but the pacing makes it so you want to finish it in one sitting.  It will reel in reluctant readers, but has enough meat to attract and retain more devoted bibliophiles as well.

Recommended for: runners, reluctant readers and readers who love to really step into a character's shoes (or shoe, as the case may be) and see the world through different eyes. 

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