Coffee For The Brain Book Tournament Book Review: Runaway by Wendelin Van Drannen

Title: Runaway
Author: Wendalin Van Draanen
Pages:278

From her website

“It’s a cold, hard, cruel fact that my mother loved heroin more than she loved me.”
Holly is in her fifth foster home in two years and she’s had enough. She’s run away before and always been caught quickly. But she’s older and wiser now–she’s twelve–and this time she gets away clean.
Through tough and tender and angry and funny journal entries, Holly spills out her story. We travel with her across the country–hopping trains, scamming food, sleeping in parks or homeless encampments. And we also travel with her across the gaping holes in her heart–as she finally comes to terms with her mother’s addiction and death.

Runaway is a remarkably uplifting portrait of a girl still young and stubborn and naive enough to hold out hope for finding a better place in the world, and within herself, to be.

My Thoughts
This review is going to be an ongoing review. I am starting this review early. Despite the fact that I am only 20+ pages into the book as of right now I need to start to describe this book. This girl is angry. She has had a rough life. Nobody believes anything she has to say. She has been homeless. Her mother was a druggie and now lives in a foster home where the parents are very mean to her, but act perfect in the public eye. It makes me angry to even read about it.

I also had to stop and think about the kids we teach and see each day. So many of them we don’t always get the full picture of what they are dealing with on a daily basis. This girl in the story does not do her homework, but would you if you were stowed away in a freezing cold laundry room and not fed? It makes me stop and remember to really think about the 1000+ kids in our building and all the baggage some of them bring to school everyday.

14 Hours Later…..
I finished the book. I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. I have read other novels by this author(Swear to Howdy being one of my all time favorites) and this book did not disappoint. In many ways I liked it more than her other novels. It seemed more real, more edgier, but at the same time perfect for middle school kids to read. She presented life on the street as being very hard and dangerous, but never brought in any details to heed caution to who should read the book.

The journal structure of the novel was perfect. This is the ideal way to present the ideas of Holly. She is one mad girl just trying to find some guidance and trust in the world. She has runaway from her problems and this time is successful.

The novel stuck a nerve with me and no in a bad way. I kept picturing this girl going through all of this feeling bad for her and it made more realistic for me as I kept thinking of some of my students and one in particular who shared something so devastating to me that it has not left my mind. It reminded me once again that we teach students who deal with things that are so difficult that I can see what school is the last thing on their mind.

What I really enjoyed most about this book is such a small feature, but something so clever in my eyes. Sammy from the Sammy Keyes series makes an appearance which corresponds to the first novel in the series where Holly was a small character in that book. How the author kept things within the same world, but creating a whole new tone to the story was a creative masterpiece. I am blown away by authors and how they can create these wonderful stories time after time.

This is going to be a tough decision on my part and for my partner on choosing which book makes it to the next round in the tournament. I have to read Matched by Ally Condie next and then begin to deliberate which one is better. Starting with Runaway was a great start to the tournament and a book that I would recommend to many students in my school. This one is a keeper. Check it out.

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