Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Saturday, April 13, 2013

Plot Summary:
Before she got on the bus to a track meet, Jessica's life was perfect. Not only could she set a record, she had friends, a wonderful family, and was well respected by her teammates. However, when the bus was hit by a truck that would not only claim the life of the driver and her classmate, her dreams were shattered. When she woke up in the hospital and saw the space where her leg should have been, she thought she was dead. After spending weeks in the hospital, and many days of self-loathing, Jessica returned home to face the truth that she has changed and that competing would be the last thing she would ever be able to do again. Although she has been given the opportunity to resume a normal life with a prosthetic leg, she is unsure and doubtful that she could ever be the same. However, with a little prodding from her best friend, Fiona, Jessica tries to be the girl she used to be. What Jessica did not count on is that there are worse things then losing a limb. When she returned to school, she not only dealt with the glares and stares, she realized what life might be like for someone who was unable to walk. When she went to math class, she was asked if she wanted to sit with Rosa. Rosa sits in a  wheel chair and that made Jessica which made her panic because she did not wanted to be seen as one of "those" people. However, when Rosa passed her note, she realized that there is nothing wrong with Rosa. Rosa cerebral palsy, which is a debilitating condition and, although Jessica is missing a leg, she at least knows what its like to walk. By looking past her condition, Jessica sees that Rosa is an intelligent and hopeful girl who helps her get out of her rut and even helps her pass math. While getting to know Rosa, Jessica starts to realize just how blessed she really is and she gets the biggest surprise from  a certain boy and her dreams of running again are not as impossible as she thinks.

Critical Evaluation:
I will be completely honest...this book is exactly what this generation of teenagers needs. Adolescence, in itself, is hard enough, but when life throws curve balls that adults can't even handle, these situations can be devastating. I can't even begin to imagine the tragedy that Jessica has experienced because she did absolutely nothing to deserve losing a limb and a team mate. I really do hate saying it but this story, like many, are prime examples of horrible things happening to good people. On the other hand, this story is not about loss, but about surviving and conquering. Jessica was definitely in a slump, but she decided and dared to hope that she can do anything she can set her mind to. I was so touched by her support team because, without them, Jessica would have probably never left the house. Her best friend, Fiona, is what I call a class act; she not only helped Jessica deal with her loss, but pushed her to strive for more. Rosa, the biggest blessing in Jessica;s life, is just beyond amazing. If anyone had a right to be angry and depressed by her condition it's Rosa. However, she doesn't blame people, or the world, for having CP. In fact, Rosa has accepted that she will never run, but it doesn't stop her from living vicariously through others by asking questions. I seriously had goosebumps towards the end when Jessica and Rosa were racing because talk about a wish come true: a girl with a prosthetic limb pushes another girl with CP in a ten mile race. I would have given anything to be in this story just so I can see the power of the human spirit uplift and stomp our despair and hopelessness. The romance bit was toughing, as well, because love doesn't know boundaries and people need to realize that if we cut our hair, gain weight, or lose a limb, we are still worthy of being loved. I was so inspired and beyond grateful that I read this book because we tend to take a lot of things for granted in this world until someone shows us to treasure every day and everyone around us. Bravo, Wendelin Van Draaen!

Information about the Author:
According to Random House:
Books have always been a part of Wendelin Van Draanen's life. Her mother taught her to read at an early age, and she has fond memories of story time with her father, when she and her brothers would cuddle up around him and listen to him read stories.

Growing up, Van Draanen was a tomboy who loved to be outside chasing down adventure. She did not decide that she wanted to be an author until she was an adult. When she tried her hand at writing a screenplay about a family tragedy, she found the process quite cathartic and from that experience, turned to writing novels for adults. She soon stumbled upon the joys of writing for children.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Sports Lit, Teens with Disabilities
 

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Running Dream:
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  •  Jerk, California by Jonathan Frissen

Awards & Recognition:
  • 2012 Schneider Family Book Award
  • Positive review from Booklist
  • Positive review from School Library Journal

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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