Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Publsiher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Overcoming Obstacles, Disability, Loss, Friendship
Age Range: 6th Grade and Above
Summary: from Goodreads
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
I wasn't sure what to expect from Van Draanen's book, The Running Dream. I knew her best as the author of the Sammy Keyes series and the Shredderman series for intermediate age readers, and to be honest while I find the characters in those books pretty endearing, I wasn't sure whether Van Draanen could pull off the level of depth that a story like this seems to require. I shouldn't have been concerned-The Running Dream is a touching story about a girl who learns to deal with the devastating loss of her dream of running in the Olympics, while at the same time learning the importance of not stereotyping someone based on their disability.
Jessica goes through the well-known stages of grief over the loss of her leg, as well as the death of her teammate in the bus crash. She alternates between depression, anger, denial, and hope during her time at the hospital, and throughout the process of transitioning back to home and school. Luckily for her, she has a best friend that won't give up on her, and a team that comes together to get her back on the track.
Her support system is definitely a major factor in her recovery, but what really makes her come to terms with her new reality is her friendship with Rosa. Like many people, Jessica always assumed that anyone with the type of physical disabilities that Rosa has must also be cognitively impaired, which is often far from true. Rosa is smart and funny and warm, and she reminded me of the character from Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind, which also busted some stereotypes about the physically disabled. Their friendship definitely ups the emotional impact of the book.