Sixteen-year-old Jessica Carlisle lives to run. Every morning, she and her dog, Sherlock, tackle a five-mile loop to start the day; the wind in her hair and the pull of her muscles make her feel alive. After school, she and her best friend, Fiona, join the track team for practice and competitions. Jessica is even counting on winning a track scholarship for college. But then her entire world screeches to a painful dead end.
The man who crashes into the track team’s bus doesn’t have insurance, and that’s the smallest of the disasters he leaves behind. One member of the track team dies in the accident, and Jessica’s crushed leg requires amputation. Now she faces huge obstacles just to use the bathroom, take a shower and climb the stairs. After taking some time to heal, she is fitted with a prosthetic leg and struggles in learning to walk again. In addition, she continuously battles the demons of self worth, all the while believing she will never run again.
But then Jessica finds some seeds of hope. There is a special prosthetic leg available just for running, but it’s terribly expensive. Her track family decides to raise the money to buy it for her, enlisting the help and support of the entire community. Meanwhile, Jessica struggles to catch up on her missed homework and calls on math whiz Rosa for assistance. She has never paid much attention to Rosa, who uses a wheelchair and suffers from cerebral palsy. But their friendship sparks a new strength and light in Jessica that inspires her to want to give something back to Rosa. She is determined to share her love of running with her new friend in a way Rosa never could have imagined.
In THE RUNNING DREAM, the vastly talented Wendelin Van Draanen invites her audience on a journey of survival and self-discovery. Right from the beginning, the storyline pulls you through the pages with a passion. Along the way, you will learn much about prosthetics and cerebral palsy, both the facts and the feelings, without it ever seeming like a lesson. You will bond with Jessica, feel her pain, mourn her loss, celebrate her achievements, and cheer her to the finish line.
THE RUNNING DREAM is an amazing story filled with nightmarish endings and torturous new beginnings, oozing with heart and hope, and lingering warmly long after the last page is turned.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on January 11, 2011