Monday, May 26, 2014

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen | Audiobook Review

(This is a simple, clean cover and I love it.)

Jessica is one of the star runners on her high school track team until a freak accident results in her losing her right leg below the knee.  She is not at all comforted when her doctor tells her that she's lucky to have kept her knee; she can get a prosthesis and someday walk again.  Walk?  Why would she care about walking when she lives to run?  Her entire life is built around track.  Her best friend is on the track team with her.  She starts and ends each day with running.  Her parents even joke that she was born ready to run.  The Running Dream opens with Jessica in the hospital, only a day or two after the accident, and follows her through a year:  the extremely difficult adjustment to life with one leg; the difficult return to school; the first fittings for a prosthetic leg... Along the way, Jessica has great support from her family and her best friend Fiona, from her track coach, and from a new friend, Rosa, who struggles with Cerebral Palsy herself.  At first, Jessica is focused on herself, and how she would survive with just one leg.  But as the story unfolds, the focus grows.  The whole town comes together to support Jessica and her family, and Jessica shifts her focus to Rosa.  The Running Dream is about much more than just one girl learning to run again; it's about family and community and friendship.

I absolutely loved this book!  I can see why it's on so many "recommended/required summer reading" lists around here every year.  It's got so many great conversation points to it.  If I were a high school English teacher (and I'm definitely not) I would ask all my students to write about which character they identify with and why.  I would just love to read/hear all the answers!  In fact, if you've read this book you should leave me a comment with which character you identify most with and why!

Characters:  I loved all the characters.  I loved how they were all flawed, but yet were so awesome.  A great example of this is Jessica herself.  She's not perfect.  She gets really frustrated, especially in the beginning.  She has good days and bad days.  Sometimes she misunderstands someone's intentions and gets mad and then has to rethink her reaction.  But deep down inside, she's a really great girl who I'd like to be friends with.  She's loyal to her friends:  even when she's feeling really down about not being able to run anymore, she still goes to track meets and cheers on her friends during their races.  She's hardworking:  she gets herself in shape amazingly quickly in order to get her prosthetic leg as quickly as possible, and she never gives up on schoolwork and manages to get caught up in every subject after having to miss so much school after the accident.  She's caring:  there's this one scene where she's still in the hospital after the amputation and she comforts Fiona (not hurt in the accident)!  Speaking of whom, I do love Fiona's overt enthusiasm for life!  She's so bubbly.  I also love Rosa, who has incredible strength in her words and actions despite her disability.  And last but not least, I love seeing the character growth and development in Gavin through the book.

The Running Dream also has great pacing and "flow."  (I don't know if that's the technical literary term, but you get it, right?  I'm talking about how easy it was to just float through the book and get lost in the story without having to overthink or reread passages.)  The pacing was just spectacular. There was not a single point where anything slowed down too much or sped up too much or where anything got bogged down.

I listened to The Running Dream on CD in my car and the narration was fantastic.  Kudos to Laura Flanagan for great narration!

I give this book an enthusiastic 5 of 5 stars!

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