Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Running on the Cracks

Running on the Cracks by Julia Donaldson
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Aug 13, 2009

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bookshelves: ya, 2009, fiction
Read in August, 2009

Leonora's parents, gifted musicians, died in a plane crash and Leo, their only child, is sent to live with her Aunt Sarah and Uncle John and their two girls, Flo and Caitlin. Sarah and Leo's mother were never close sisters, and the cousins are mean to Leo. But it is Uncle John and his creepy bedside manner that has Leo fleeing Bristol on the day she was meant to start school for the first time, after years of home schooling.

She has one chance left, one hope to run towards: her father's parents. All she knows about them is that they had a Chinese restaurant in Glasgow, and that they never spoke to or saw her dad again after he met Leo's mother. With a surname like Chan, however, and no other clues to go on, Leo knows it won't be easy to find them. And with her picture appearing in the paper and the Big Issue, she has to keep her head down.

A friendly woman called Mary takes her in, as she takes in many strays, and a local boy, Finlay, helps Leo track down her grandparents. But as Mary stops taking her pills and gets more and more unstable, and with Uncle John close on Leo's heels, it's only a matter of time before her hopeful new existence unravels.

This is an engaging story, simply told and well written. It would appeal more to the age group it's marketed at than adult lovers of YA: it was a bit too simple for me, a bit lacking in depth. The characters existed only in the vaguest of ways prior to the beginning of the narrative - we get only glimpses of Leo's parents, for instance, and know very little about them or Leo herself, for that matter. Same with all the other characters, with perhaps the exception of Kim, a relative Leo discovers with Finlay's help, who gets to tell the story of how she came to live in Glasgow from China.

The characters' personalities come through in more subtle ways, but it still had the feeling of existing in a bit of a bubble. When you are genuinely interested and want to know more, this can be disappointing.

The reference to "running on the cracks" is mentioned briefly, or rather implied, and if I understand it correctly it refers to an old story Leo's dad told her of a dragon hiding in the cracks - a metaphor for Uncle John, I assume, but it's a rather haphazard connection. To be honest, I was never really clear about the title.

I did like learning a little bit about the Scottish Aberlour Child Care Trust, which helps runaway children and teens without forcing them back to the life they were escaping from. It came up at the very end but it sounds like a good system to have.
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