REVIEW: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

REVIEW: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van DraanenThe Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Published: Ember (2011), Paperback, 352pg
Source: Library
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her. (from Goodreads)

Y’all, this book made me cry like FIVE TIMES. In some ways it’s totally WOW and heartbreaking and amazing! In some other ways, it has problems.

THE GOOD: accurate1 depiction of fighting back into normalcy after a traumatic event; good writing (especially the tone! And I liked that Jessica wasn’t optimistic AT ALL; it was a nice change from the Hallmark movie “putting a brave face on” sort of thing); good build up of tension to the end.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD: it does that thing where a handicapped person helps a non-handicapped person learn about life through the handicapped person’s bravery/innate goodness/whatever, like an even worse version of the manic pixie dream girl2; also wouldn’t a maniac runner know about runners-missing-legs already? They’re always in the news3; possibly stereotyped sassy black teenagers as background characters.

So! While I cried and felt emotionally attached to Jessica and overall had a good reading experience, afterwards I had some second thoughts about things. I love Wendelin van Draanen’s Sammy Keyes series, which manages to shove a lot of heartbreaking/wonderful emotional stuff into a short amount of pages. The Running Dream has more pages and more heartbreak, but somehow it missed out on the charm that’s in the Sammy Keyes books. Maybe it’s just the subject matter? Maybe it’s just me and my issues with the not-so-good stuff detailed above?

I wish I had kept liking The Running Dream as much as I did while I was reading it, but these things happen. I think it’s still a good book and one that’s worth reading, especially if you wanna cry over a book (in a good way).

Read: May 23, 2013

Have you ever flipped an opinion about a book before?


  1. from my point of view as a reader who hasn’t ever really gone through a traumatic event, anyway.
  2. only both people are handicapped this time but one is “more” handicapped than than the other?
  3. although she IS a teen and they’re kinda dumb sometimes.

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