Monday, November 8, 2010

The Running Dream

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen is coming in January 2011 from Knopf, for ages 12 and up.

Jessica Carlisle is a junior in high school and a track star.  She sets a new record in the 400 meter during an away meet.  Then on the bus ride home, there's a terrible accident.  One girl loses her life.

But Jessica loses her leg.

I know what you're thinking.  Whoa!  A track star losing her leg?  That's terrible! What a downer of a book!  You couldn't be more wrong. This book is full of determination and hope and even lots of humor. The story of how Jessica heals and learns to walk with a prosthetic leg and meets a new friend named Rose is a story you won't soon forget.  It's not as much about running as it is about facing and dealing with adversity.

I am so impressed by this book.  It breezes along as fast as a race around a track.  Lots of one-sentence paragraphs and a present-tense narrative make it a super fast read.  But more importantly, you feel as if you're reading an actual memoir by a real teen named Jessica Carlisle. The voice is that authentic. In fact, I feverishly checked the acknowledgments, thinking surely Wendelin Van Draanen simply interviewed Jessica Carlisle and then wrote up her story.  Easy peasy. 

But this is a work of fiction. There is no Jessica. According to her own blog, Wendelin worked with experts in four different fields.  It involved a ton of research and she almost didn't want to tackle the book because of that.  I'm really glad she did.

This story of working through a difficult situation gives me the perfect segue for a mini brain aneurysm lesson.  If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm a survivor of a ruptured brain aneurysm.  And like Jessica, I had a long healing process.  But it was nothing compared to what some others have gone through.  As a brain aneurysm survivor, I've "met" many other survivors online.  One of the most amazing is Greg Wagner.  This young man, now in his 20s, was only 3 years old when his aneurysm ruptured.  He's managed to graduate from college, earn a blue belt in taekwondo and complete four marathons, despite continuing problems with nerve damage, balance and coordination.

Like Jessica and her friend Rose in The Running Dream, Greg Wagner wants us to see the person, not the disability.

What are you reading that's amazing?

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