The Running Dream
By Wendelin Van Draanen
Published 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Jessica is a runner - it's just a fact. Who she is. Or who she was. Because Jessica has lost her leg in a car accident. And now she's not sure she can ever be the same person. It will take a lot of support and a new friend for Jessica to figure out that she can still be a runner.
I mentioned a while back that I was participating in The Hub's Reading Challenge. As is typical of me, I haven't finished reviewing the books I read for the challenge yet. This is one of those titles. I chose this one from the list because it had also been a Lone Star book when I first moved to Texas. Additionally, I don't read a lot of books about disability and, of those that I do read, even fewer about physical disability. Since this was a multiple award winner, I figured it'd be a good choice for expanding my horizons.
What an understatement that is. I loved this book. It is beautiful in its simplicity and straightforwardness. I loved that Van Draanen didn't feel the need to complicate Jessica's story with a lot of unnecessary filler. I love that she really focuses on Jessica's journey - her apathy and depression after the accident, her grueling recovery, and her optimism gaining a second wind. I, like many readers of young adult literature, read a lot of depressing and sad books through my love of YA lit. It was so refreshing and joyful to read this book, then - I think I smiled more than I have during reading in a long time. Because despite the tragedy that befalls Jessica, her bright and hopeful personality keep the book afloat. Even when she is struggling in the immediate aftermath of her amputation, it feels hopeful. And I really like that Van Draanen carried this hope through to the end. In particular, I'm thinking how this ending starkly contrasts with the ending of Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper - an ending that, for me, nearly ruined the overall effect of the book. I like that things turn out wonderfully for Jessica. I love how present and supportive her parents are. I love that even the things I found uncomfortable (Jessica's teammates starting a campaign for her without asking her opinion first) felt very true to life. Yes, that is probably exactly what a high school track team would do. There is just so much about this book that I find appealing - I devoured it, not wanting to put it down at the end of each lunch hour. I really enjoyed this book and wish there were more like it - I'd forgotten how lovely it can be to be uplifted by what you read. Highly recommended.