Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: Runaway

In doing research for my current novel, I wanted to find a book devoted to the story of a runaway. While I was a bit hesitant, because I don't want my character to come off sounding like someone else's character, I went ahead and dove into this book because I trust the author name - Wendelin Van Draanen. My fears were unfounded. My runaway teen is nothing like the main character in this book. Furthermore, my book is told from a grown woman's point-of-view, rather than the perspective of the runaway. Anyway, all that to say, this was a good solid read and a beneficial exposure to the life and challenges of a young runaway.

Runaway tells the story of twelve-year-old Holly, an orphan girl who is fed up with the abuse she suffers in her foster home. Determined to make a change, Holly makes a break for it one day and manages to get across the state line. With renewed confidence, she stows away in the cargo hold of a bus and manages to shake the dust of her old life from her feet. Unfortunately, life on her own is more challenging than she'd ever imagined and, with few she can trust, she drifts from place to place in search of a better life.

I think young readers will relate to Holly's struggles and her voice. While she initially scorns her English teacher's suggestion to write in order to process things, she inevitably finds comfort and solace in jotting down daily observations and scribbling poetry. This journal follows Holly's journey into her self, her story, and her salvation (a chance encounter with Sammy - the main character in many of Van Draanen's other works of fiction).

I relished the author's note at the end of the book. Van Draanen reveals the spark that brought this story to light and explains the depth of research that fleshed it out. I could relate to her difficulty with the sections of poetry because a teenager in one of my books writes some poetry and I recognize the desire to express the youthful angst, while maintaining a realistic adolescent voice. While it won't make my top reads of the year, like Van Draanen's The Running Dream did a few years back, I'm glad to have found this book.

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