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.
In general, I really like amputee books. That may sound really weird, but all of the ones I’ve read I really like. They are usually inspiring, and it’s interesting to experience a different perspective. The Running Dream especially succeeds in voice and perspective. The story is told through a first person that does really well at sounding like a teenager and conveying all of Jessica’s strong feelings. It’s very readable and emotional. I think it’s a great way to write for teenagers an the whole story is very consumable without sacrificing anything and talks about a difficult topic in a relatable way. Jessica’s love and determination for running was contagious all throughout, and the symbolism of running was powerful. I don’t like running but this book made me want to go out and run!
A definite strength of the novel is the research the author has put into prosthesis and the technical process involved for amputees to get back on their feet. I had never read or learned about how prosthesis are measured and made, or anything about prosthesis so I was glad that information was included. There were also money and insurance troubles added for a dose of reality although they were a little too easily solved. In fact, a lot of things wrapped up too nicely. Everything ended happily and perfectly, and even though there were other smaller conflicts at school and with relationships, they never really felt threatening or worrying to me. This made the book really easy to read, but I could have used a bit more after the beginning of the book. I still love a happy ending though!
My biggest complaint was that the a lot of the characters were one dimensional and kind of cardboard. They just didn’t really have much depth or development. Even our main character didn’t really have a personality outside out of track and losing her leg. Despite her lack of uniqueness, I still connected to her and felt very sympathetic.
The Running Dream was a truly refreshing and different read from what I’ve read lately. It’s upbeat and inspiring and lovely to see people’s compassion and kindness during rough times. It’s also always good to be reminded of your luck sometimes and how fortunate I am.
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 332 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books