If you decide to read Wendelin Van Draanan's The Running Dream
make sure you have hankies or tissues nearby. From the first three
"My life is over.
Behind the morphine dreams is the nightmare of reality.
A reality I can't face."--
you're drawn into the reality of Jessica, the young protagonist, as
inexorably as succumbing to an ocean undertow. Only you want to
surrender. She's a really good kid about whom I feel it would be
impossible not to care and want to know how her story turns out.
Jessica wakes up in the hospital. An out of control truck had
hit the school bus she was riding home from a track meet in. A
teammate was killed. One of Jessica's legs was so badly damaged it
had to be amputated below the knee. For a girl who lives to run, this
There is so much Jessica has to adjust to. There's physical
therapy and getting ready for a prosthetic limb. Many acts that were
simple before, such as taking a shower, require forethought and
effort. Going back to school demands a great deal of social and
psychological as well as physical adjustment.
Jessica's teammates haven't given up on her. They've discovered
a specially designed artificial leg that would allow her to run
again. If they can raise $20,000 she can be on the team for her
senior year. I won't give away the ending. But I'll tell you I
couldn't put the book down.
One very adult reality is not glossed over. As Jessica's
medical bills pile up the insurance companies squabble over which one
has to pay. Her dad has to work fourteen hour days. Her parents have
had to take out a second mortgage. Only in America!
On a personal note, I really could relate to Jessica. I don't mean
the running. It gives me shin splints. I mean not knowing if you
have to give up on something that makes you feel alive. I want so
badly to go to grad school to get my phd in educational advocacy. But
having a significant disability that precludes the valid drivers
license requirement of so many jobs and having been out of the work
force to raise kids...even meaningful work seems so far out of reach.
I'll be better in a few weeks. But right now every back to school ad
feels like a shot to the heart.
[Two days elapsed at this point.]
A great big shout goes out to our new Asa Adams principal, Darcie, for
telling me how other people see me and reminding me that even if I'm
not where I want to be career wise I'm not, in her opinion, I'm not
what I was calling myself which was loser. I left her office feeling
that if I try hard and don't give up maybe a miracle can yet happen.
Back to school talk doesn't hurt a bit. I guess that girl told me a
thing or two.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod