The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Picture the thing you most love doing, that one thing that gives you both a sense of peace and a sense of accomplishment, the thing that structures your days.
Now picture that suddenly, without warning, that thing is taken away.
Jessica is a runner. Running is hard-wired in her body and brain, and when a truck driver crashes into the side of the track team bus she loses not only her right leg, but also the one thing that makes her whole: her ability to run.
Prepare for the faucets, reader, because you will be teary. Yet–amazingly–you won’t be depressed (I PROMISE!). The incredible accomplishment of The Running Dream is not that it will make you cry but that it will make you so JOYFUL. This is one of the most skillful books I have read recently, and I recommend it highly and widely. Here are some of the people who SHOULD read this book: athletes of any age or gender. Anyone who has been injured or loved someone who has been injured. Anyone who deals with disability or illness. Anyone who has experienced a sudden change in circumstances, with the complications of identity and relationships that inevitably follow.
Have I covered everyone yet?
Van Draanen has considered Jessica’s injury from every angle: how does it affect her parents, her younger sister, her track coach, her best friend? What are the financial implications, both immediate and over a lifetime? Of course, the most compelling driving force of the book is how the injury impacts Jessica herself: her initial depression, her recovery, her relationships (what boy will ever like a girl with one leg?), and her world view. All of a sudden that girl in the wheelchair in her math class seems like a person, even a friend, rather than part of the scenery that Jessica–the old Jessica, that is–would rather ignore.
It would be easy to mistake this book for Just Another Sentimental Overcoming Adversity story, but it would be an unfortunate mistake. What sets The Running Dream apart is its compelling insight, its genuinely human heroine, and most of all, its perfectly paced, fast moving plot. I could not put it down.
A great read for ages 10 and up.