The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Knopf Books for Young Readers, January 11, 2011
Summary from Goodreads:
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?Wow. I, just, WOW. I did not anticipate how much this book would move me. From the very first chapter, where Jessica is slowly coming out of anesthesia after the operation to remove her foot, I was sucked into her life. Jessica and readers alike learn about the complications of the surgery, recovery, and process for creating a prosthetic limb. Van Draanen's writing is so realistic that I was cringing right along with Jessica the first time she tried to "hop" up the stairs in her house.
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.
I was also brought to tears at least twice during the reading of this novel, which is quite a rarity for me. Yes, I cry constantly during movies and TV shows (sometimes even during commercials), but crying while reading isn't something that comes naturally for me. And what makes it even better is that they were tears of happiness, not sadness. Just to read about the outpouring of support Jessica gets when...well, I don't want to spoil it, but I felt as though I was right there with her.
I also loved the relationship Jessica developed with Rosa. Once Jessica began to realize that Rosa was a wonderful person who just happened to have cerebral palsy, she began to put her own problems into perspective. I was truly heartened to see these two girls become friends, and to see how they each offered the other help when it was needed. I also appreciated that Jessica was able to see beyond herself and her problems--large though they may be--to help a friend who has problems of her own.
As a matter of fact, the entire cast of characters in this novel was perfect. Mom and Dad demonstrated just the right amounts of hopefulness and hopelessness, little sister Kaylee showed the right balance of fear and annoyance at having her life disrupted, and Jessica's friends were both supportive and horrified. In such a terrifying situation, you don't just feel one emotion--it's more like a roller coaster of feelings, and I feel Van Draanen did an excellent job of portraying this realistically.
I highly recommend this book. You don't have to be a runner to appreciate the story (I'm proof of that!) of a girl who struggles to be who she once was. You will certainly come away with a new perspective of your life and problems once you've read it.
ARC received from I Read Banned Books as part of her Banned Books Tour. Thank you so much for letting me participate!
Enjoy your reading!