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 againever. 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 costsphysically, emotionally and financiallyto come back from such a devastating physical trauma. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
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
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)
Read an Excerpt
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.
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.
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.
I'm stuck in this bed, knowing I'll never run again.
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.
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."
From the Hardcover edition.