Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
I have read Van Draanen before, both Flipped and at least one Sammy Keyes book I believe, but it hasn't been since I was in elementary school I believe. So how does she stack up a decade later? Better than I remember actually. Although I do remember Flipped being a cute book, in The Running Dream Van Draanen tackles a big issue when she makes her main character a teenage girl who has lost their leg, and she does it with strength and inspiration.
Jessica is an incredibly realistic main character and she's also a great role model but she's not perfect. She's strong and inspiring but she also gets grumpy and bitter, and Van Draanen makes it clear what an important role supporting friends and family play in Jessica's recovery. The fact that Jessica has a best friend, Fiona, who is there with her, pushing her but also supporting her, was something I found refreshing. I find quite often main characters going through a tragedy in YA literature are completely abandoned by their friends and it was nice to read a book where the characters had a true, strong, friendship with a great girl who was a positive influence on her. I also felt many of the other secondary characters, in particular Jessica's family, were really authentic. Her younger sister was frustrated with Jessica's moodiness but also also really proud of her accomplishments, while her dad and mom struggle both financially and emotionally while always supporting Jessica but trying to be realistic.
Although I appreciated the theme in The Running Dream of seeing a person and not their disability I did feel that at times Van Draanen pushed the Rosa storyline too far and wished for a little more subtlety in that regard. Rosa is clearly an inspiration, but portions of the book involving her sometimes were a bit heavy-handed, veering dangerously into motivational speech territory, especially when it comes to the ending. I also wasn't sold on Jessica's relationship with her long-time crush, they were cute but I never really felt a true connection between them. There were also two loose ends, both involving money storylines, that were left unresolved at the end of the novel when I had hoped for a little more closure.
As a whole, Van Draanen has done a fantastic job with The Running Dream. The book begins with short chapters, and although they become longer later I felt it did a really good job of representing the ups and downs that Jessica felt. Unsurprisingly, it was also a very emotional read, there is one scene where Jessica gives herself a shower that really stuck with me in particular- a strong reminder of the things that so many people take forgranted. Ultimately, The Running Dream is successful because of authentic characters, clear writing, and the uplifting way in which Van Draanen tackles a serious and important topic.
Release Date: January 11th, 2011
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