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The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

April 27, 2011

After Jessica sets a new league record in the 400m, her high school track team’s bus is involved in an accident with a drunk driver. A teammate is dead and one of Jessica’s legs must be amputated below the knee. As she deals with the physical effects of the injury and amputation—the loss of strength, pain, learning to get around on crutches, etc.—she also struggles emotionally. Jessica’s identity was based in large part on running; now that she thinks she will never be able to run again, what’s left for her?

Wendelin Van Draanen’s The Running Dream is a very optimistic, predictable, but still enjoyable read. (Angela at Bookish Blather, whose review I largely concur with, mentions Disney movies. This is the *perfect* comparison.) I was never surprised by anything that happened, both in terms of character development and plot. When Jessica sees a clip of Oscar Pistorius running, when she becomes friends with Rosa, a girl in her math class with cerebral palsy, I knew where the book was going. Yet I still found the story engaging.

Short chapters made The Running Dream a quick read, and I think it also made it rather easy to read. I mean, a book about a girl dealing with the amputation of a leg is not exactly lighthearted, but the brevity of the chapters made some of the heavier moments easier to handle. Additionally, while practically every character is so helpful and positive that that it sometimes strains belief, this also keeps the story moving. Jessica’s rehabilitation and her parents’ financial (i.e., health insurance) worries last through much of the book, but the focus of the book is mostly on Jessica’s inner journey: how losing her leg changes her perspective.

Book source: public library.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2011 6:08 pm

    Sometimes a nice optimistic, predictable book can be a good escape. Thanks for the review!

    • April 27, 2011 9:04 pm

      Yes, there are definitely times a book like this is exactly what you need to read.

  2. April 28, 2011 8:48 am

    I have this one waiting for me. I didn’t realize that it was happier than I thought. I figured, with the amputation, it’d be pretty much a downer and I haven’t been in the mood for that lately. Glad to know I’m wrong!

    • April 28, 2011 8:05 pm

      It definitely has its darker moments, but it’s not heavy. Hope you enjoy it!


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