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The Running Dream

The Running Dream

4.7 192
by Wendelin Van Draanen

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The acclaimed author of Flipped delivers a powerful and healing story that’s perfect for the millions who watch the Olympics or anyone who’s ever thought that something was impossible. Readers will revel in the story of a girl who puts herself back together—and learns to dream bigger than ever before—after she’s told


The acclaimed author of Flipped delivers a powerful and healing story that’s perfect for the millions who watch the Olympics or anyone who’s ever thought that something was impossible. Readers will revel in the story of a girl who puts herself back together—and learns to dream bigger than ever before—after she’s told she’ll never run again.

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

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When track star Jessica loses her leg in a school bus accident, she is devastated that she will never run again. After weaning herself off painkillers (upon which she's become dependent) and learning to walk with crutches, she returns to school at the urging of her supportive best friend. When her track coach shows her videos of amputees running on prostheses, she's riveted at the thought of reclaiming her passion—if, that is, her team can raise the ,000 needed to buy the leg. A tender subplot about Jessica's friendship with a girl with cerebral palsy seems scripted to underscore the message about seeing beyond disabilities ("Don't sum up the person based on what you see, or what you don't understand; get to know them," Jessica says). But Van Draanen sensitively conveys Jessica's struggles, from getting into the shower to her fear that no guys will be attracted to her. Jessica's gradual acceptance of her new life's limitations and her discovery of its unanticipated gifts should satisfy readers, who will root for her as she learns to run again. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"I read The Running Dream on my way to the World Championships. I nearly missed my flight for reading it and inhaled it before I touched down. It's a truly touching story that feels very real."—Katrin Green, Paralympic Gold Medalist

"This heart-touching story is a helpful reminder that we must appreciate each day and each blessing. When I go around "Rigor Mortis Bend" and think of Jessica, my legs do not feel nearly as tired anymore."—Jordan Hasay, four-time USA Track & Field Jr. Women's Champion

"Van Draanen's extensive research into both running and amputees pays dividends—readers will truly feel what's it like to walk (or run) a mile (or 10) in Jessica's shoes."—Booklist

"Inspirational. The pace of Van Draanen's prose matches Jessica's at her swiftest. Readers will zoom through the book just as Jessica blazes around the track. A lively and lovely story."—Kirkus Reviews

"Van Draanen delivers an abundance of interesting medical detail and emotional authenticity in this accessible and inspirational novel."—The Horn Book Magazine

VOYA - Summer Hayes
Running is Jessica's life. A talented track star with plenty of potential, she was hoping for a sports scholarship to college but when the team's bus collides with a car, Jessica's running career is over. Her right leg, shattered beyond repair, is amputated below the knee. Adjustment to life without her leg is difficult, and her nightly dreams about running are bitter reminders about what she has lost. Unable to walk, much less run, Jessica returns to school feeling hopeless and that her life is without meaning. While small victories and new friendships help take the edge off her frustrations, it is not until she sees YouTube videos of amputee athletes competing professionally that Jessica truly believes she might be able to run again. Readers seeking a gentle inspirational story about a girl overcoming adversity will not be disappointed. Jessica's leg heals quickly and her emotional journey is one of gratitude and positive thinking rather than depression and self pity. Her narrative of her life as an amputee, especially the details of getting her prosthesis, are frank and fascinating. Her emerging friendship with Rosa, a student with Cerebral Palsy who uses a wheelchair, is a convenient device for bringing awareness to the invisibility of the disabled, but it fits with the upbeat tone of the book. Although the characters are slightly bland and there are few surprises here, Van Draanen has created an engaging story about friendship and inner strength that teaches as it inspires. Reviewer: Summer Hayes
Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Jessica Carlisle has a dream about running the streets of her town with her dog at her heels. But the reality is that she will not be running again—ever. Jessica has lost her leg in a tragic bus accident that also claimed the life of one of her track teammates. Though everyone assures her that she is "lucky" she does not feel that way. Her dreams of a track scholarship are crashed along with her lower leg. She knows that her parents cannot afford the college she has planned on attending. More than that, she worries about the quality of life she can expect with only one leg. The novel follows Jessica on her long road back to health and stability. Her track coach introduces her to technology that allows amputees to actually compete. It is expensive and the team sets out to raise the money for her. At first, it is awkward for Jessica to be seen on her preliminary prosthesis, but as she learns to walk again, she dares to hope that she will run again. Jessica becomes friends with a young classmate who has cerebral palsy. At first, Jessica sees only Rosa's special needs and its stereotypes. But as Jessica and Rosa share the back table, Jessica realizes that Rosa is not only a math genius, she is also a wise young woman who helps Jessica see the world differently. Rosa longs to experience the adrenalin of a race finish and Jessica becomes determined to make that dream come true. The story is touching without being maudlin. Although Jessica's story has a "happy ending," it also comes with the reality of what it costs—physically, emotionally and financially—to come back from such a devastating physical trauma. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
Kirkus Reviews

A girl learns to run again in this inspirational story of recovery from a terrible accident and from insensitivity. Sixteen-year-old Jessica lives to run. She's a track star, but she loses her leg when an uninsured driver hits her school bus. The tale follows Jessica's initial despair and growing confidence as she struggles to cope with her disability and her father works to pay medical bills. At last the community rallies round her with a fund drive to buy her a prosthetic running leg. Meanwhile, Jessica makes friends with Rosa, a bright girl with cerebral palsy whom she had never noticed before. She decides to help Rosa as her friends have helped her, but Jessica's decision to push the wheelchair-bound girl through a 10-mile race might be too ambitious. Despite the story's focus on Jessica's emotional rollercoaster ride, Pollyanna would feel right at home there. Nevertheless, the pace of Van Draanen's prose matches Jessica's at her swiftest. Readers will zoom through the book just as Jessica blazes around the track. A lively and lovely story.(Fiction. 12 & up)

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Narrator Laura Flanagan pulls listeners into Wendelin Van Draanen's heartfelt novel (Knopf, 2011) with an immediate connection that only deepens as the story progresses. She fully becomes Jessica, a 16-year-old track star who loses a leg in a tragic bus accident that also claimed the life of a teammate. Listeners will feel Jessica's pain through Flanagan's poetic pacing that is tinged with a sharpness that perfectly matches Jessica's initial reaction to her new reality. The emotional drain that Jessica feels will leave listeners equally moved as she and her family cope with the physical and financial challenges and adjustments that her care brings. Each character is given a distinct vocal personality—from Jessica's best friend, Fiona, with her spunky determination to Rosa, a classmate with cerebral palsy who becomes Jessica's math tutor, inspiration, and friend. Listeners will cheer her team on as they try to raise enough money to help Jessica run again with a special prosthetic leg. Flanagan expertly transitions her narration to match Jessica's growth and perseverance, making the running scenes feel authentic. This inspirational audiobook will have students reflecting on their own lives.—Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
HL650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

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.

"Shhh," my mother whispers. "It'll be okay." But her eyes are swollen and red, and I know she doesn't believe what she's saying.

My father—now that's a different story. He doesn't even try to lie to me. What's the use? He knows what this means.

My hopes, my dreams, my life . . . it's over.

The only one who seems unfazed is Dr. Wells. "Hello there, Jessica!" he says. I don't know if it's day or night. The second day or the first. "How are you feeling?"

I just stare at him. What am I supposed to say, "Fine"?

He inspects my chart. "So let's have a look, shall we?"

He pulls the covers off my lap, and I find myself face to face with the truth.

My right leg has no foot.

No ankle.

No shin.

It's just my thigh, my knee, and a stump wrapped in a mountain of gauze.

My eyes flood with tears as Dr. Wells removes the bandages and inspects his handiwork. I turn away, only to see my mother fighting back tears of her own. "It'll be okay," she tells me, holding tight to my hand. "We'll get through this."

Dr. Wells is maddeningly cheerful. "This looks excellent, Jessica. Nice vascular flow, good color . . . you're already healing beautifully."

I glance at the monstrosity below my knee.

It's red and bulging at the end. Fat staples run around my stump like a big ugly zipper, and the skin is stained dirty yellow.

"How's the pain?" he asks. "Are you managing okay?"

I wipe away my tears and nod, because the pain in my leg is nothing compared to the one in my heart.

None of their meds will make that one go away.

He goes on, cheerfully. "I'll order a shrinker sock to control the swelling. Your residual limb will be very tender for a while, and applying the shrinker sock may be uncomfortable at first, but it's important to get you into one. Reducing the swelling and shaping your limb is the first step in your rehabilitation." A nurse appears to re-bandage me as he makes notes in my chart and says, "A prosthetist will be in later today to apply it."

Tears continue to run down my face.

I don't seem to have the strength to hold them back.

Dr. Wells softens. "The surgery went beautifully, Jessica." He says this like he's trying to soothe away reality. "And considering everything, you're actually very lucky. You're alive, and you still have your knee, which makes a huge difference in your future mobility. BK amputees have it much easier than AK amputees."

"BK? AK?" my mom asks.

"I'm sorry," he says, turning to my mother. "Below knee. Above knee. In the world of prosthetic legs it's a critical difference." He prepares to leave. "There will obviously be an adjustment period, but Jessica is young and fit, and I have full confidence that she will return to a completely normal life."

My mother nods, but she seems dazed. Like she's wishing my father was there to help her absorb what's being said.

Dr. Wells flashes a final smile at me. "Focus on the positive, Jessica. We'll have you up and walking again in short order."

This from the man who sawed off my leg.

He whooshes from the room leaving a dark, heavy cloud of the unspoken behind.

My mother smiles and coos reassuringly, but she knows what I'm thinking.

What does it matter?

I'll never run again.

Chapter 2

I am a runner.

That's what I do.

That's who I am.

Running is all I know, or want, or care about.

It was a race around the soccer field in third grade that swept me into a real love of running.

Breathing the sweet smell of spring grass.

Sailing over dots of blooming clover.

Beating all the boys.

After that, I couldn't stop. I ran everywhere. Raced everyone. I loved the wind across my cheeks, through my hair.

Running aired out my soul.

It made me feel alive.

And now?

I'm stuck in this bed, knowing I'll never run again.

Chapter 3

The prosthetist is stocky and bald, and he tells me to call him Hank. He tries to talk to me about a fake leg, but I make him stop.

I just can't listen to this.

He gets the nurse to put a new bandage on my leg. One that's thinner. With less gauze.

I'm cold.

The room's cold.

Everything feels cold.

I want to cover up, but Hank is getting ready to put on the shrinker sock. It's like a long, toeless tube sock. He pulls it through a short length of wide PVC pipe, then folds the top part of the sock back over the pipe. I don't understand what he's going to do with it, and I don't care.

Until he slips the pipe over my stump.

"Oh!" I gasp as pressure and pain shoot up my leg.

"I'm sorry," Hank says, transferring the sock from the pipe onto my leg as he pulls the pipe off. "We're almost done."

Half the tube sock is now dangling from my stump. Hank slides a small ring up the dangling end, then stretches out the rest of the sock and doubles it up over the ring and over my stump.

There's pressure. Throbbing. But Hank assures me it'll feel better soon. "The area is swollen," he tells me. "Pooling with blood. The shrinker sock will help reduce the swelling and speed your recovery. Once the wound is healed and the volume of your leg is reduced, we can fit you with a preparatory prosthesis."

"How long will that take?" my mother asks. Her voice starts out shaky, but she tries to steady it.

Hank whips out a soft tape measure and circles the end of my stump. "That's hard to say."

Meet the Author

WENDELIN VAN DRAANEN recently ran her first marathon. She was struck by the people with physical handicaps who were also running and was inspired to write this book about overcoming adversity with courage and grace and strength.

Van Draanen was a teacher for many years before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of many beloved and award-winning books. For middle graders she’s written Swear to Howdy, and the Sammy Keyes mystery series. For teens and tweens, there’s Flipped, The Running Dream, Confessions of a Serial Kisser and Runaway. And for younger readers, check out The Shredderman quartet and the Gecko and Sticky. Wendelin Van Draanen lives in Central California with her husband and two sons. Find her on the web at WendelinVanDraanen.com or on Twitter: @WendelinVanD.

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Running Dream 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 192 reviews.
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
The Running Dream is very inspirational, and I love books that make me feel, think and moves my heart. Jessica is a great narrator- she has a concise voice, and I like how the emotion comes out in this book. It is fictional, but it all feels real. From the details, the emotions, the responses of friends and family, down to financial matters. I love the message that comes through both Jessica and Rose- do not see the disability- see the person. I love that even though Jessica has her own physical problems, she must overcome her prejudices and notions with Rose. This is a great story and I recommend it
katrina schremp More than 1 year ago
This book makes you realize that you dont know what you have until its gone. I loved this book so much!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
An accident involving a junk-hauling truck and a school bus leaves one high school track team member dead and one team member with her leg amputated below the knee. When Jessica wakes up after surgery, she learns that her leg was hopelessly crushed, leaving doctors no choice but to amputate it. At the same time she is facing her own crippling injury, she learns that her fellow teammate, Lucy, didn't survive. Her world looks pretty bleak and hopeless. Because she is young and healthy, Jessica's recovery goes smoothly and she soon heads home from the hospital. Physical therapists have been preparing what remains of her leg for a prosthetic replacement. Her wish is to walk, but she doesn't hold out much hope that she will ever run again. Supportive family and friends work hard to convince her that she needs to be patient and keep a positive outlook. Of course, this is easier said than done. Upon returning to school, Jessica finds herself working hard to catch up on the work she has missed, especially Algebra II. Because of her wheelchair, she sits in the back of the classroom with Rosa, also wheelchair-bound due to cerebral palsy. Jessica discovers that Rose is a math whiz and can explain the concepts even better than the teacher. It's amazing how Jessica never really noticed Rosa before the accident, but now she understands that cerebral palsy is just an outside condition and that there is much more to Rosa on the inside. Meanwhile, medical expenses are challenging the family budget, and when the track coach mentions the idea of a "running" leg for Jessica, the $20,000 expense seems impossible. But, once again, her friends step forward and decide to make Jessica's ability to someday run again their cause. There are bake sales, car washes, and anonymous donations to raise money for a special prosthetic running leg. All this enthusiastic support encourages Jessica to begin dreaming of one day running again. THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin Van Draanen explores the heartbreak resulting from a tragic accident. Being a teen is difficult enough, but add to that the loss of a limb and life seems too depressing to go on. Not only is Jessica battling the loss of her running dream, but also the self-esteem issues of how others now view her and how she fits into the world of other healthy, happy teens around her. Van Draanen proves that determination, courage, and empathy for others can sustain hope in what might be considered a hopeless situation. Readers from middle school on up will find this one a rewarding read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me in tears at some parts. Its truly one of THE BEST books I have ever read & I would recommend it to anyone. Wendelin Van Draanen became one of my absolute favorite authors after finishing this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great inspirational story for any runner or athlete...it makes you really appreciate what you have and what you often take for granted. In the book the main character, Jessica nearly escapes death in a bus accident. In result she loses her right shin and foot. She has to learn how to do everything over again. And when she starts to give up all hope in running again, a CP girl, Rosa, puts the sparkle back in her eyes. With her kinds words she reassures jessica that she will run again. With everyones help jessica gets her dream! Great book overall!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was honestley the BEST BOOK EVER I personaly thoght that this was bettre than the Hunger Games .GET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Claire Kallen More than 1 year ago
This book rocks!! Had my nose in it4 2 days and i fnished it!!!! So good:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really touching. I recommend this book to everyone who has a dream.
libbydewey More than 1 year ago
Jessica, a track star, is in a serious bus accident where she loses her leg. Now she has to deal with a new life that at first is a challenge but with the help of others she starts to walk and eventually run again. I will be recommending this one to many students. Hopefully a class set!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is both emotional and inspiring. Its so fast-paced any reader is sure to fly by it. The awesome Jessica has a huge heart which really made me realize and see a lot of the new things she did. I will never froget this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book! One of the best books I have ever read. I would definitely reccomend this book!
ballroomdancenonstop More than 1 year ago
You do not have to be a runner to find this book interesting and inspiring because I sure as heck am not a runner but this book was a very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really motivated me to do something with my life. I joined my school's cross country team and any time I thought I couldn't go any farther, I just thought, "If a fictitious woman with one leg can run 10 miles while pushing someone in a wheelchair then I for sure can run this friggin' 2 mile jog." This book will always be in the front of my mind when I feel like I can't go on anymore. I strongly reccommend this book to anyone.
dixiebelle80 More than 1 year ago
*SPOILER ALERT!!!! I recently read a book called "The Running Dream" by Wendelin Van Draanems and it was one of the best books that I have ever read. The book was well written and inspirational. It starts out describing the normal life of a teenage girl, named Jessica, who has a passion for running track. One day she was on her way from a track meet and was involved in a bus crash. Jessica's leg had to be amputated because of the injury she received from the bus crash. Jessica recovers well from her surgery, but is very depressed because she thinks she will never be able to run track again. When Jessica lost her will to live and was at the lowest point in her life, she met a very special person who helped her regain her confidence and eventually get back in the race. The author did a fantastic job at describing the setting of a small town high school and the disabilities of the two teenage characters. I totally identified with the main character and the theme of the book was very believable. I felt as if I was there and I was Jessica's friend. I especially enjoyed the scene where Jessica meets Rosa, who has Cerebral Palsy, and she realizes how selfish she had been for pouting over a missing leg when Rosa can't even move her limbs. Jessica's school held a fundraiser to raise enough money to pay for a prosthetic leg for Jessica to wear. Rosa tutored Jessica in math and Jessica practiced running with the prosthetic leg so she could wheel Rosa around the track. The two teens create "Team Rosa" and encourage each other to cross the finish line together. This book has actually changed my life and helped me to realize that there is not anything we can't accomplish if we have the will power and determination. I laughed, I cried, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from cover to cover. I am ready for the author to write about the dramatic adventures of Jessica and Rosa racing into their college years.
ALGiddens More than 1 year ago
Book review Title: The Running Dream Author: Wendelin Van Draanen “The Running Dream” talks about a main character who is Jessica who had a coincidence. Jessica (16 years old) was a track star who was coming back from an away track meet, and on their way back the bus got in a huge accident leaving a girl named Lucy dead and Jessica with an amputee. Fiona, Jessica’s best friend, has been helping Jessica around the house and helping her catch up with her school work. Jessica’s mom schedules her appointment so she can get a leg as quick as possible so she can get back on the track. When Jessica gets to the appointment she is worried because she wants her leg to look normal when she is able to walk. Jessica didn’t know it but her nurse Cloe has two prosthetic legs. When Cloe tells Jessica that she has prosthetic legs Jessica is no longer worried or scared about getting a leg because she had no idea that Cloe had prosthetic legs because she looked and walked normal. Jessica’s dad is worried about if they will have enough money to pay off all of Jessica’s medical bills and more. There have been some struggles about the cost of getting Jessica a prosthetic leg and her running leg. What Jessica is more worried about is going back to school. She is worried about how people will see her…will the see the inside of her (what she’s going through) or will they blow her off because the way she looks?? When Jessica gets back to school her math teacher sits her buy Rosa who is paralyzed from her legs down! Jessica and Rosa pass notes during class and come to find out that they live very close to one another. Jessica would not have passed math class if it wasn’t for Rosa. Rosa has never been able to run so Jessica wants to give Rosa the time of her life but first Jessica must get a running leg. To find out what Jessica’s school does for her you need to read The Running Dream for yourself. This book has many strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is the surprise ending that the author keeps you interested in that you will have to read for yourself. On the other hand, The Running Dream has many weaknesses, one of them is that the interesting parts of the book is scattered everywhere and I think as a good author you should keep your reader interested the whole time through the book. I would advise you to read this book because the author does an amazing job by making you feel like you are there with Jessica every step of the way through her emotions and her feelings. For example, the author describes how Jessica wants to make Rosa’s dream come true and if my friend was paralyzed from the waist down I would want to do whatever I could to help her feel like a normal person would. The book fits in a genre of realistic fiction because the characters look like, feel like, and do things like any normal person would do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If i could i would give it more stars this was the best book i have ever read. It is a MUST READ!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books l have ever read!!!!!:D lt is so inspiring!!!!:D ln my opinion, it is a true must-read!!!:D At least try iut the sample, and you will realize, you need to invest in the entire boik!!!!:D Give it a shot! At least try the sample!!!:D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luv this book! Go book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The running dream is the best book ever.i am a runner for are scgools track and it made me think what would i do. Wow that has to be hard. Or i would donate to the cause.. i recremend this book to every one i know!!! I love it u must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing!! It really moved my heart and now makes me think twice about looking at people with conditions instead of looking at who that person really is, because a lot of the time people r looking at people because they have some type of condition when yet all they want is for people to look at them for who they r instead. The running dream is a down to earth heart felt book. 
K3L5I More than 1 year ago
The Running Dream is a great book. The character is realistic, with no fake, cheery, constantly upbeat attitude you sometimes see in these type of books.  She DOES get upset, and she IS scared.  But she overcomes many challenges, her own and those of other's.  This book has a clear message that will easily be understood. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an AMAZING book! Very insprirational and touching. I really like this author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very inspirational. For people of all ages and for anyone who wants to be inspired.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so freaking good I cant stand it. I would especially suggest this for runners, but Im not and I still loved it. Basically this book is about a girl and she loses a friend and her leg in a bus crash. She is an avid runner, and she must face the world with a prosthetic leg. At first she thought that was it for her; running was out of the question. But then she learns about a famous Olympian with no legs at all: Oscar Pistorious. This motivates her to run... But what with? Her prosthetic engineer guy tells her about Cheetas, what Oscar Pistorious uses. They are really really expensive, and her team has to raise a bunch of money for it. She also has to deal with the crush troubles with her long-time love, Gavin, the difficulty of getting past the accident and moving on, helping out disabled Rosa, and so. much. more. A must read for runners, but I also highly reccomen this motivational book to anyone. Five stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I greatly reccomend this book for everyone. It inspired me and helped me realize how lucky i am to have both of my legs to run on.