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What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  5,799 ratings  ·  862 reviews
The #1 New York Times Monthly Sports and Fitness bestseller

From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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4.16  · 
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 ·  5,799 ratings  ·  862 reviews

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Maddy: Do u like this enough to Insta?

Madison Holleran committed suicide on January 17th, 2014. In this book, Kate Fagan sheds light on this dark event. Why would an Ivy League student who is beautiful, bright and athletic and seems to have it all want to take her own life?

When I read the title for the first time, I thought this book would be about a girl whose life was better *because* of track. But it’s actually as much about what pushed Maddy to run as it is about the sometimes positive but m
La Petite Américaine
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The next time you find yourself shocked/stupified/wishing you could bitchslap some obnoxious Millennial, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Kate Fagan's What Made Maddy Run
The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen
. It won't make you want to bitchslap them any less, but at least you'll understand what the hell is wrong with them.


What Made Maddy Run profiles just one 19 year-old woman, but the story of her life, from its promising beginning to its tragic end,
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had to take some time to collect my thoughts after I finished this book. Heartbreaking. Raw. REAL. This is a book that all college students should read (athlete or not), all parents of college students should read, and all coaches and professors. Kate Fagan did an amazing job at covering this story in a very respectful and safe way. Through the pages you get to know not only Madison, but you also get to know the mind of a college student, the pressures that collegiate athletes face, and the im ...more
Jenny Bunting
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this quickly since it was an engaging read. However, I found the structure wonky and I could care less about the author's narrative and story. It felt clunky and I would've appreciated a more seamless transition from Maddy's story to the whole world view to the limited amount of the author's story.
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
In 2014, Maddy Holleran, a freshman track star at the University of Pennsylvania commits suicide. Sportswriter Kate Fagan, a former college athlete, sees herself in Maddy and tries to deconstruct what made the promising young woman kill herself.

Interviewing family, friends and coaches Fagan tries to understand both Maddy and the atmosphere amongst elite universities and athletics. Penn had seen a number of suicides over the past year and Fagan seeks to search for reasons and solutions.

Fagan’s co
Ali Edwards
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I first heard about this book on the "Feel Good Effect Podcast" where the author spoke about a bunch of different topics related to the heartbreaking story of the life of Madison Holleran: social media, perfectionism, college athletics, depression & anxiety, suicide, and transitions (among other things). This book totally made me think about all of those pieces in a variety of different ways. It made me think back to my own experience as a Division 1 athlete (swimming) and my transition from ...more
Bree Hill
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. I listened to it on audible which I highly recommend. The author narrates it herself and did an incredible job.
She tells the story of Maddison Holleran-an athlete since she was a little girl who self proclaimed she would go to college and play sports.
She grew up a soccer star but made the tough decision to go to college for track instead because it was realized she was really fast and big named schools were seeking her out for
Lauren Hopkins
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was a little confused about what this book was trying to be, because main subject matter aside -- a 19-year-old DI student athlete at Penn with the world seemingly at her fingertips throws herself from the ninth floor of a parking garage one week into her second semester, leaving notes and presents for her family behind -- it kind of veers into like, multiple explorations of wildly different topics that coincide with Maddy's story, and then on top of that, there's the author's own journey into ...more
Kristen Dutkiewicz
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-stars, memoir
"What Made Maddy Run" was an incredibly fast read and I connected with the author's honesty as well as her insight into Maddy. Maddy was a talented, beautiful, athletic and intelligent nineteen-year-old, posting photographs on Instagram, celebrating academic accomplishments, and blessed with many friends.

However, the surface is just the surface. A lot can hide behind the smiles, and sadly, this seemed to be the case for Maddy. My heart breaks for all she went though that first semester at Unive
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
The title of the book "What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen" implies that the pages within contain the story behind the sudden death of a bright and accomplished young woman. Unfortunately, the author spent too much time talking about herself and never really gave readers a complete picture of Maddy Holleran. I never felt the essence of Maddy, never felt the emotions behind the words, and subsequently, feel the book did not fulfill the promise that t ...more
twelvejan [Alexandria]
4.5 insightful stars


"We're consuming an increasingly filtered world yet walking through our own realities unfiltered."

Because I am from a different continent, I didn't know who Madison Holleran was. I was scrolling down TDS FB page and chance upon a short clip of an interview between Trevor Noah and Kate Fagan about this book that was recently released. I caught a snippet of what she said about how social media has been used to assuage the actual sentiment behind text messages, of how we use
Rita Shaffer
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a very important read for all parents and educators! We need to talk about mental health and support each other. ❤ ...more
Mitzi Moshiri
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I believe this book is important and I am glad I read it. However, I did not care for the author's personal reflection on her experience as a collegiate athlete and her struggles. I wanted to hear more about Maddy personally, and didn't care for the flip-flop perspective. I also felt that there was a lot of repetition. I believe the author could have written this book in half the volume.

I did appreciate the last chapter in regard to how the media portrays suicide, and how this needs to be thoug
Meghan Becker
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking but important read for everyone but especially parents. My biggest takeaway was: the pressure facing our kids as they prepare for college and beyond is far greater than it was for us 25 years ago. My second takeaway is that it's OK to not be OK, and it's OK to admit that you're not OK.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is really difficult to put into words everything that I had felt while reading this book. I knew nothing about Maddy or her struggles going into this book so I felt that I was reading this whole situation with new, fresh eyes. The way Fagan discusses social media, sports, and college in regards to the pressure that they cause us all is so fascinating and interesting. I learned things about anxiety and depression that I would have never even considered before picking up this book. I think that ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A must read for all parents of teens, pre-teens, and soon-to-be teens as well as the teens themselves. It’s important on many levels as to what goes through a teen’s mind, athlete or not. It highlights the transition from high school to college and some struggles that can be expected.

I did wish there was more in here about how to help if you notice it in someone and less about the author’s own struggles. Given this was a book about Maddy, I didn’t find it necessary, even if she was trying to mak
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish this book didn’t exist. I wish Madison Holleran was still living today to tell the story of what could have been, instead of Kate Fagan telling the story of what happened. It seemed like everything was there for Maddy to make a different decision, but she didn’t. This story is compelling because Maddy is reflected in so many kids, so many people, and we often don’t know how to address suicide prevention in an effective way.

I wish everyone would read this book, especially those of us who
Laura K
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a very quick read and so haunting and tragic. Horrifying for this girl’s family who will live the remainder of their lives with such grief and guilt. I read the ESPN article on this story about 6 months ago. That article (Split Image) is very good and haunted me for weeks. I think either the article or the book would be good for parents to read – especially parents with children about to enter college. To be honest, I do not think the book really added all that much to the article a ...more
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I went into this book expecting one thing and got something totally different. I expected it to be about how Maddy's suicide was this surprise because everyone was so fooled by her social media. Yet, not only was Maddy seeing a counselor, she'd consistently told everyone how miserable she was. OVER AND OVER AND OVER. She even told people how what she felt "wasn't normal" and she just "wanted to be happy again." Apparently, though, no one was listening-- either because she never said "I'm suicida ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it

I think this is the question that everyone tries to answer in the aftermath of a suicide. Why did someone like Chris Cornell or Chester Bennington die by suicide? Why did 19 year old Ivy League student athlete Madison Holleran?

Fagan spends a lot of time discussing social media, such as when she juxtaposes the "Everything is Awesome" appearance of Holleran's Instagram account with Holleran's internal struggles. After I finished the book I looked at Holleran's instagram. It's a very haunting e
Carmen Liffengren
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What Maddy Run is an extremely important book. I can't remember when I read the original article about Madison' Holleran's death, but it made a huge impact on me. Almost nothing impacts me more than the death of a young person. This book is about more than what motivated a beautiful, talented, and successful young woman to take her own life. On the surface, Maddy's life looked ideal. She was pretty, driven, smart, and a wildly successful athlete excelling in both soccer and track. After she grad ...more
Lauren G.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
It's clear that Fagan takes her role seriously in telling this story. And I imagine it's a balancing act with respect to who will read it. What will parents think? High school overachievers like Maddy? Struggling college students? Writing this book cannot have been an easy task, and I commend Fagan for doing it.

With that said, I think there was too much fat in the book. Almost every chapter repeated a variation of the same theme of "we use social media to project a perfect image of ourselves to
Beth Honeycutt
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such an eye-opening book with so many things to think about. I appreciated the factual information about suicide and depression. It sparked good conversations with my husband and daughters.

On a personal note, this was a tough one - I have a Maddie and she’s a freshman in college.
Cathy Squas
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I finished it in one sitting as it is a fast read, but I'm not really sure that it provided much more insight into Madison's death than I had before I read the book. Depression is an awful illness that is so personal and hidden, and it seemed to come on so fast that she was never really able to share with those closest to her what she was feeling. Such a tragedy.
Agatha Donkar
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was, of course, as absolutely brutally heartbreaking as you would expect a book about the suicide of a young woman to be, and Kate Fagan deserves without a doubt all the critical and popular praise she'd receiving for it. I think ultimately it's an important book not because it seeks to understand mental illness -- because you can't, because on a bad day there is literally no way for me to explain to someone who doesn't struggle with mental illness that the inside of my head is anything oth ...more
Kara Belden
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it

I remember being so moved by the ESPN article “Split Image” years ago, so I was very excited to read this book, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I was hoping for much more research on the pressures of college athletes and college students in general as well as depression, anxiety, and young adult suicide. I did appreciate the insights into modern teens and their social media usage. I found that to be most interesting.

I actually didn’t mind the author’s interjections, but I was very
Beth Lind
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t stop reading this and now I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about Maddy. Gah! The pressure this world puts on our high schoolers as they aim to get into college and it continues in college.

We’ve lost a lot in this age of social media. Connections. We think that others have perfect lives. The truth is that even those who appear to have it all may not. We are all broken in some ways and maybe our world would be better if we started sharing our faults and shortcomings and fears and
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This in-depth look at a teenage athlete's descent into depression and her eventual suicide is definitely eye-opening. Kate Fagan does an admirable job recounting the many stresses and all-consuming pressure that goes into being an athlete and a student in today's world. Although I was impressed with the breadth of research Fagan did (including interviews with Maddy's family and friends and snippets of emails and texts from Maddy herself), I think Fagan's interjection of her own experiences took ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think everyone should read this, teens, parents, coaches. It’s powerful.
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Lets exchange thoughts and advice 2 12 Mar 08, 2019 04:18PM  
Nonfiction Naviga...: Teen Suicide 1 2 Feb 01, 2019 08:46AM  
Teen Suicide 1 2 Feb 01, 2019 08:43AM  
Nonfiction Naviga...: What Made Maddy Run 1 6 Dec 14, 2017 12:24PM  
Mental Health 1 7 Dec 14, 2017 12:21PM  

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Kate Fagan is a columnist and feature writer for espnW, and ESPN The Magazine. She is also an in-studio contributor for The Word, a digital video segment that examines hot topics in sports. Previously, Fagan spent three seasons covering the 76ers for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her work was cited in the anthology of Best American Sports Writing 2013, and she has also been featured on Longr ...more
“Madison and her friends were the first generation of “digital natives”—kids who’d never known anything but connectivity. That connection, at its most basic level, meant that instead of calling your parents once a week from the dorm hallway, you could call and text them all day long, even seeking their approval for your most mundane choices, like what to eat at the dining hall. Constant communication may seem reassuring, the closing of physical distance, but it quickly becomes inhibiting. Digital life, and social media at its most complex, is an interweaving of public and private personas, a blending and splintering of identities unlike anything other generations” 3 likes
“And we're not just talking high school students; this practice of hovering often begins before they've learned how to write. Kids used to grow up in a neighborhood-- on the block or in the parks, playing games with other kids. These games had rules, but the kids themselves determined them, flexing their imaginations. Social scientists called these activities -- capture the flag, bike races, pickup baseball games -- "free play, " and it's been steadily decreasing since the 1950s. Scientists have also noted a correlation between the decreasing amount of childhood free play—any play not directed by adults—and the increasing rates of anxiety and depression among kids. As free play decreases, anxiety increases.” 2 likes
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