The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen;
Knopf Books for Young Readers: New York,
Have you ever seen a book on the shelf and known it was the perfect book for you even before you turned the first page? The Running Dream was like that for me. The moment I saw it on the shelf I knew instantly that I had to read it.
Jessica, age sixteen, loves to run more than anything else in the world. She can run a 55-second, 400-meter dash. But then everything changes. She loses her leg in a terrible accident. Faced with the impossibility of running, Jessica sinks into depression. Only the love and encouragement of her track team and a girl with cerebral palsy named Rosa can make her dream of running again come true.
This book touched the deepest feelings inside me. There was sadness and joy, pain and loss, hope and love, and sometimes a mixture of all of them. Jessica’s voice was so honest and true that I felt as if she was a real person, even a friend, sitting beside me and telling me her story. She was easy to relate to; I found myself comparing my experiences to hers. She found her love of running by sprinting around the soccer field, so did I. She ran track, so did I. She cheers on her teammates, so did I. Wendelin Van Draanen described the feelings of running so accurately too. I felt as if I was inside the story; it felt so real.
Jessica’s determination also made me really admire her as a character. She showed determination when working with crutches and with a prosthetic leg. Even though she was often disappointed and frustrated with herself, she never lost her vision that she would run again. My favorite part of the story, however, was when Jessica had a crazy plan to run a 10-mile race pushing her friend Rosa in a wheelchair. She believed that people should see past Rosa’s disability and appreciate her for who she really was, a kind, funny, cheerful, and incredibly smart girl. Jessica’s strong will and strength were really inspiring. Even though running was painful, uncomfortable, and always really, really hard, she pushed through and found that she could do the impossible.
Overall, this story is unlike any other that I’ve read. During the course of the story I learned about prosthetics and about what you can do if you believe in yourself and in others. The chapters were short and swift and full of meaning, conveyed in simple, crisp, concise sentences. I liked how the book was also divided in sections as if it were a race, starting with “Finish Line” and ending with “Starting Line.” If you are a runner, you must read this book because it will deeply impact you.