The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen was published in 2011. Our librarian introduced me to this book by choosing it for the school book club. Every student in book club liked this book (all 60 of them).
This book has a lexile rating of 650HL. What this means is that it is geared toward older teens who also have a hard time reading. HL stands for high interest low reading level. The lexile level falls in the second to third grade level, but this book is not meant for a child that young. The content is written for middle and high school students.
Although this is a young adult novel, I think adults will like it as well. Van Draanen paints an easy to read picture of a teen facing loss. The themes and symbolism of Jessica's journey can benefit everyone.
The story begins with Jessica in a hospital bed. "My life is over. Behind the morphine dreams is the nightmare of reality. A reality I can't face. I cry myself back to sleep wishing, pleading, praying that I'll wake up from this, but the same nightmare always awaits me" (3).
Right away the reader wants to know what is wrong with Jessica. The pages have a lot of white space, larger font, and more space between the lines. The chapters are short, and the cover appeals to teens. These are all markers of a High/Low book. I love books like this because it helps students who struggle with many learning issues. If you are an older reader - like me, this also makes it easier on old eyes that can no longer read fine print.
In the first chapter, we learn that Jessica has lost a leg, and for a promising young runner, this means the end of her dreams. The problem is that she keeps dreaming that she is running. She wants to run again, but how can she run with only one leg?
I liked seeing Jessica's growth throughout the novel. I liked how she acknowledged the negative weeds in her garden of self esteem. I loved the themes of true friends and new friends, and seeing people for who they are - not just their "condition". I also loved that Jessica worked through her fears, pain, and anger in a constructive way, and that she showed how much she needed others to help her get to the other side. She did a lot, but she needed others to help guide her. I loved her friend Fiona for not allowing Jessica to give up. She shows what a true friend really is. Jessica is a character who isn't perfect, but she is perfectly humble, giving, and appreciative.
This book is rated at 4.30 on Goodreads by 2,263 people. I gave it five out of five stars.