Tuesday, February 1, 2011

YA Fiction: The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen

Sixteen-year-old Jessica loves to run. She runs around her neighborhood with her dog every morning before school, and she is a medal-winning athlete on her school's track team. When Jessica's story opens, however, she is in the hospital after a car accident, her leg amputated, her running dreams on hold.

Jessica doesn't see how she'll ever be able to walk, much less run, again. It takes her weeks just to make it out of the hospital and back into school. But then her track coach shows her videos of athletes running record-breaking sprints - on special prosthetic legs. With the help of her uber-supportive friends and teammates, Jessica hatches a plan to raise the $20,000 for a "running leg" so that she'll be able to compete in track events her senior year. Will Jessica be able to achieve her "running dream" despite her accident?

The Running Dream is a pretty good book. Jessica's story is inspiring, and van Draanen's writing really brings readers into Jessica's thoughts and hardships. What made this book especially great, however, is that it's not just about a girl who, despite a terrible accident, is able to come back and start achieving her dreams again. Van Draanen adds an extra dimension to the story with Rosa, a freshman with cerebral palsy whom Jessica meets because she's sent to the back table in math class - the table for students in wheelchairs. In fulfilling her dreams, Jessica doesn't forget the dreams of Rosa, and she helps her new friend (and raises awareness of Rosa's condition) in a unique way that brings readers to the inspiring conclusion of the novel. 

My ARC of this book was received through Random Buzzers, a program of Random House. The Running Dream went on sale January 11, 2011.

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