Tuesday, 26 July 2011

review: The Running Dream

by Wendelin Van Draanen
Alfred A. Knopf
contemporary young adult
Awesome Awktopus Summer of YA Lit Challenge

Jessica was a runner. The keyword? Was. The accident that killed a fellow runner also smashed her right leg from the knee down. Now she's trapped on crutches, in a wheelchair, never to run again... unless her track team can fundraise $20 000 for a running prosthetic leg. Meanwhile, her wheelchair issue introduces Jessica to Rosa, the math genius with cerebral palsy. As an unforseen friendship blooms, Jessica slowly works her way back to the place she loves most: the track.
The cover:

I think I'm in love with that font. And the way the shoelaces become the R! And the plainness of the white background -- so underrated. Props, Alfred A. Knopf book designer.

The book:

Short chapters open for a direct path into Jessica's mind; the reader is right there with her from the beginning feeling her despair mingled with her love of running. So when the depression kicks in, Jessica doesn't seem too mopey since we already sympathize with her. The doubts and self-conscious thoughts make her likeable, flawed and relatable.

The plot is surprisingly simple. Aside from Jessica's personal struggles and worries over insurance that had excellent obstacle potential (but were resolved too neatly and quickly), the storyline climbs a steep hill rather than Mount Everest. A few parts did make my heart ache, especially the parts with Sherlock. So sweet.

Supporting characters shine, especially the BFF Fiona who's actually legit (rather than a Back-stabbing Fake Friend, also known as a BFF) and Rosa, who has such wisdom to share with Jessica and the reader. Her cerebral palsy isn't portrayed particularly clearly, but this may be a result of trying to show her as a person, instead of showing her cerebral palsy.

One aspect I particularly enjoyed is the non-seriousness of the relationship Jessica strikes up with the crush interest Gavin. It isn't some "I found my soulmate for life or death" or even "he makes me feel like never before"; you can picture this relationship growing and dying naturally, like high school couples do. It's refreshingly normal, and at the same time not unsweet.

A feel-good story and a quick read, The Running Dream is a fresh contemporary for all genre-lovers.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5