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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  9,349 ratings  ·  1,283 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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La Petite Américaine Cash App: $Covid2020sucks
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
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
'What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen' by Kate Fagan left me feeling sad. Fagan certainly did her best to understand Maddy's suicide by examining Maddy's social media comments and by conducting interviews with family, friends, psychologists and other athletes, some of whom also felt suicidal after graduating from high school and transitioning to college.

The cover blurb is accurate, so I have copied it:

From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate
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 hom ...more
Mariah Roze
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this for Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link:

I really enjoyed this book, even if it breaks my heart.

I believe every college athlete, coach, parent/guardian of a college athlete, professor, etc.

"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 wh
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. ❤️
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Elise Cripe
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
a lot to think about as I raise my girls. I feel lucky that my introduction to the internet was pre-smart phone and pre-filters; it was so much easier to figure out who I was (and it was still hard obviously). important read.
Sydney Wong
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The average rating has nothing to do with Maddy's story or the book's discussion about suicide. In fact, I thought it was very important/helpful that I read this book at this point in my life as I'm about to head to college. However, I did have some problems with the book's format.

First, while I do not want to minimize Fagan's personal struggles, I failed to understand the purpose behind adding her experience with basketball to the book. Secondly, after a while a lot of the information became re
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
Mandi Bross
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is so heartbreaking and important. I read it quickly, in about a day and a half, and found myself finishing the last 1/4 of it while standing in my kitchen because I was so wrapped up in it that I didn't even think to move to a chair. As someone who regularly sees this type of pressure and its effect on teens (and, to be honest, some adults), it was important to understand Maddy's story and how the outward persona vs. inward struggle can be so much at odds. The part of the book that wa ...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
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
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-read, 2019
I don’t typically rate non-fiction because it feels like I’m judging someone’s life, but with this book I can’t not rate it. I really enjoyed Kate Fagan’s writing style. It felt like I was watching a 30 for 30 episode. I loved all of her commentary. As a former college student and current school teacher it brought up so many valid points, some things I’ve been saying for a while. I found myself wanting to highlight certain sections of the book, which I never do. It brought up good discussions wi ...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
Jul 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Ugh! I wanted to read a book about Maddy, what made her run, and her tragic death. Instead, I read the author’s story. Let’s see: a chapter about the author’s dream, a chapter detailing the author’s text messages with a friend experiencing depression, a chapter about the author’s college basketball experience, etc.

I feel like the author took the original ESPN article she published added a LOT of filler and published it as a book. Guessing this was cathartic for her as it was very self-reflectiv
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.
Agatha Lund
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
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Diversity in All ...: What Made Maddy Run The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen (October 2020) 6 19 Oct 16, 2020 06:43AM  
Lets exchange thoughts and advice 2 15 Mar 08, 2019 04:18PM  
Nonfiction Naviga...: Teen Suicide 1 3 Feb 01, 2019 08:46AM  
Teen Suicide 1 2 Feb 01, 2019 08:43AM  
Nonfiction Naviga...: What Made Maddy Run 1 7 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

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71 likes · 26 comments
“tiring, but it is not confusing. You are never left wondering if you’ve made the wrong choice, or expended energy in the wrong direction, because there is only the one rung above you. Get good grades. Get better at your sport. Take the SAT. Do volunteer work. Apply to colleges. Choose a college. But then you get to college, and suddenly you’re out of rungs and that ladder has turned into a massive tree with hundreds of sprawling limbs, and progress is no longer a thing you can easily measure, because there are now thousands of paths to millions of destinations. And none are linear.” 5 likes
“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” 4 likes
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