Swankivy's Reviews > The Running Dream

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
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's review
Mar 01, 2011

really liked it

Very good book about a high school student who was a promising track athlete until she lost her leg in an accident. Jessica thinks her life is over, but help from family and friends (new and old) plus actually learning to run again with a racing prosthesis helps her turn her finish line into a new start. The beginning was emotional and well rendered, managing to show how much running meant to Jessica by describing what it felt like to have it taken away. The chapters were short and staccato especially toward the beginning, which helped emphasize the abrupt ups and downs of her experiences. And the narration almost always did a good job of introducing people and situations without feeling like they were deliberately expository. Interestingly, the story is written in present tense and it took me a while to notice; it was just that natural. And I liked that the book was divided into sections that drew their titles from running metaphors, taking Jessica's life in micro and generalizing it to the big picture. The only bits that felt a little fake for me were Jessica's relationship with a guy she'd had a crush on for a long time (who of course ends up actually liking her) and some of the saccharine lessons Jessica learned through befriending a girl with cerebral palsy and learning to see beyond her condition. I thought the best thing about the book was how realistically it depicted a teenage girl dealing with guilt, shame, depression, and inspiration, and how sometimes she had to re-learn things she'd already learned. I also like that not every kinda crappy, petty character in the book was magically rehabilitated at the end (because that often happens in these kinds of books, yet a couple catty girls didn't seem to learn anything), and I liked that Jessica's friends sometimes said and did the wrong things or didn't know how to feel or were selfish and imperfect, just like Jessica herself.
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