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Review: The Running Dream (Wendelin Van Draanen)

Title: The Running Dream
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Genre: YA Fiction, sports
Pages: 336
Rating: 5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library
Summary (from Amazon): Sixteen-year-old jessica is a runner. It's not just what she does, it's who she is. So when a tragic accident causes her to lose one of her legs, she is shattered--inside and out. Though the doctors say she'll be able to walk with a prosthetic limb, recovery is slow and full of pitfalls. Jessica wonders if the girl who died in teh accident didn't get the better end of the deal. But as she struggles to reclaim her life, Jessica gets to know Rosa--a girl with cerebral palsy whom she and her friends had always overlooked. Not only does Rosa come to Jessica's rescue in math, she also helps her reach for a future that is full of unexpected opportunities. And Jessica starts to wonder: is it possible not only to walk again, but to run?

Review: My daughter has read a bunch of the Sammy Keyes mysteries and really liked them so when I saw that Van Draanen had a YA book out and it sounded inspirational, I jumped at the chance to read it. Boy am I glad that I did!

I loved this book; I stayed up 2 hours past my bedtime last night to finish reading it, telling myself I'd just read "one more chapter" over and over. It has great characters whose thoughts and conversations are real: parents who are dealing with insurance issues; teachers who are understanding, but expect Jessica to do her missed work; a wonderful supportive best friend; a track coach who is encouraging; and more. The storyline is also so real: tragedy, hurt, anger, frustration, hope, friendships, and new understanding.

I especially liked the friendship that blossoms between Jessica and Rose; it doesn't feel fake or put in there just to pull at your heartstrings. Rose has something Jessica needs (a great math brain) and Rose also offers wisdom beyond her years that I have seen in students who have disabilities. I loved the sense of community in this book as well. Schools really do that when there is a tragic event within their community: we raise money; advertise; and rally around a cause.

There is definitely a happy ending to this book, but it doesn't come easily or too quickly. The progression from the bus accident to hope is steady, full of heart ache and hard work, and makes you realize that Van Draanen really did her homework on this one. If you want a inspirational book that will make you cry, laugh and cheer, this is the one to read.

Geography Connection:

For my geography connection on this one I am going to post a video narrated by Wendelin Van Draanen. It talks about how she came up with the idea for this book, which is very inspirational. Click to see my updated Google Map.


Athira said...

This book sounds fascinating! It's a really wonderful theme too - helps teens with identity esp when they are no longer who they used to be.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--Identity is a huge part of this book and it is handled so well.

Julie said...

I think that this one needs to go on my list. Any book that makes you say, "Just ONE more chapter" when your eyes are drooping and your body is saying, "OMG, go to bed already!" is worth the while!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Julie--I love it when a book gets me to stay up past my bedime because I just can't put it down