Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: The Running Dream

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. 


When I picked up this book from the library, I thought it was going to be melodramatic and sentimental. But I picked it up anyway because the idea intrigued me. To be frank, this book was both of these things. 

But the thing is...Wendelin Van Draanen manages to pull off melodramatic and sentimental pretty well. At first, Jessica really pissed me off. She was so whiny and self-absorbed, never giving a thought to how the accident affected her family or the people at her school. While I kept reading, I realized that I was the one being stupid. Running was basically Jessica's life and she lost all of that due to the accident. Anyone except for a saint or someone with saint-like understanding would have reacted the same way. As the book progressed, Jessica grew as a character. She adjusted to her problems and eventually found hope. (Actually, her friends gave her hope.) 

Throughout this book, Jessica goes on and on about how she feels out of place because of her amputated leg. I think every teenager can identify with this feeling to an extent, even if we haven't had our legs sawed off below the knee.

The thing I liked most about this book wasn't actually Jessica, although I did grow to like her as I watched her story unfold. I loved Jessica's friends and team the most. Fiona could have just drifted away, content to pity Jessica and continue on with her able-bodied friends. But did she? No. Fiona had oodles of pressure for track and junior year closing in on her and she still was there for Jessica. All the time. The track team and their coach didn't behave like a team. Nope. They were a family. There was a sense of community that so many real life teams lack. It was a show of genuinely good human behavior that really touched me. 

The prose was lacking, the chapters were minuscule, and the outcome was obvious, but somehow Wendelin pulled this off. It was a good read but not something that I'd gush over.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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