Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Running Dream (Wendelin Van Draanen)

I read this book because my daughter really wanted me to. She said she laughed. She cried. She really loved it. I wasn't really interested in it, but figured sometimes it's a good idea to read something because your kids love it and you want to find out what they're loving.

Teach Mentor Texts also loved it. Check out her review here.

The story is about a girl who is a runner.  Her track team is traveling home from a meet and gets into an accident. One teammate is killed, the driver of the other vehicle is killed, and Jessica, the main character of this story, loses a leg. It took me a while to get into it. The beginning of the story is just a lot of pain and doctors and misery. Apparently this type of genre though, is a new obsession with teens these days. I'm glad to hear this new obsession. It beats the vampire trend!

(p. 20, Part I, Chapter 9)

A thin curtain separates me from the moans of my new neighbor. It smells sickly in here now. Like diarrhea and disinfectant.

My flowers are dropping and dropping petals. The balloons are sagging too, losing air. It's like they're tired of trying to cheer me up. Like they want me to give up too.

There have been so many calls, but I don't want to talk.

Not to anyone.

I can see why my daughter loved this book. It was inspiring to see how the girl fought through the challenges, found ways to overcome the accident, and rallied with her team to become a runner again.

Jessica becomes friends with a girl named Rosa who has cerebral palsy. Rosa is in Jessica's math class and helps her catch up on concepts she struggles with. The friendship with Jessica and Rosa is touching and reminds me of Wonder. When she first returns to school, Jessica is in a wheelchair and of course, doesn't fit in a regular desk.

(p. 106 Part II Chapter 12)

"There's plenty of room at that table," Ms. Rucker says without looking over her shoulder.

Inside, I panic.
Yes, I'm missing a leg, but the rest of me is...well, it's normal.
Do people think I'm special-needs now?
Is that how they see me?

No! They can't!

But...but if I start sitting with special-needs kids, that is what people will think.

It just is.

Ms. Rucker turns and give me a cool, blank look.

She wants an answer.

My mind is a flurry of contradictions. I want to lie and say I'm nearsighted. That I need to be up front in my own chair. That I hop just fine.

But I also think about my terror in returning to school. Feeling like a freak.

Is that how Rosa feels?

I've never stared at her, but I have....overlooked her.

No-the truth is, I've totally acted like she isn't there.

It's been easier.

Less uncomfortable.

For me.

"Sure," I tell Ms. Rucker. I'd be happy to sit with Rosa."

I loved her descriptions about why she loves running when people wonder. A lot of people think it's really boring. It reminded me of my daughter. People often ask her why she likes swimming. All that back and forth and back and forth must be quite boring, they say.

That's the funny thing about running. The deceptive thing about it. It may seem mindless, but it's really largely mental. If the mind's not strong, the body acts weak, even if it's not. If the mind says it's too cold or too rainy or too windy to run, the body will be more than happy to agree. If the mind says it would be better to rest or recover or cut practice, the body will  be glad to oblige.

Another great quote:

(page 314, Part V, chapter  12)

It's disturbing how fast weeds take root in my garden of worthiness.

They're hard to pull.

And grow back so easily.

It's interesting how we make connections to books. I asked my daughter why she cried in it and she listed a bunch of things that weren't the reasons I cried (yes, it did make me cry). I was really touched by the math teacher showing up to the race the girl runs at the end of the book. That whole teacher-student connection really touched me.

(page 321, Part V, chapter 14)

But there's a woman approaching us. She's wearing a TEAM ROSA shirt, but she's not a cross-country runner.

She's a math teacher.

"Ms. Rucker?" Fiona and I say together.

She's wearing running shorts and tightly laced yellow and black Sauconys.

And a racing bib.

Number 27.

But it's her bare legs that are somehow shocking to see.

"Hi, girls," she says. "I just wanted to wish you good luck."

"You're a runner?" Fiona asks.

Ms. Rucker gives her a little shrug. "In my private life, yes."

"Wow," Fiona says.

I'm noticing Ms. Rucker's watch-it's a serious runner's watch. And her shorts have little pouches built in-I can see the tops of energy gels peeking out from both sides of her hips.

I wonder how she calculates her pace-with her watch or with her brain.

I wonder if she thinks in numbers the whole way.

If she counts her steps.

But despite all the indications that she's a machine, her shirt isn't made of that fancy sweat-wicking technical fabric that would be on par with the rest of her gear.

It's cotton, and more than just a little too big.

"Thanks for wearing the T-shirt," I tell her.

She smiles, first at me, then at Rosa.

It's an amazing sight.

Warm, and a little bit shy.

"Proud to wear it," she says, then moves away. "Run strong," she says. "I'll see you at the finish line."

I watch her go.

Run strong...

I decide right then that that'll be my mantra for this race.

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