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The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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A wonderful story that shows the epitome of perseverance, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen tells a tale of tragedy and triumph. When Jessica, a high school track star, loses her leg in a bus accident that also kills one of her team mates, she loses all hope for any type of future for herself— how can she live when running is now a distant memory, an enjoyment of the past?

Encouraged by her friends and family to return to school, Jessica finally leaves her bed to face the real world. But she soon discovers how woefully behind in her classes she is. She seeks the help of Rosa— a wheelchair-bound girl with cerebral palsy, who Jessica never even noticed or acknowledged before. Despite her appearance, Rosa is a math genius. She is able to help Jessica catch up in math. By getting to know Rosa, Jessica realizes that a disability does not define a person. Hope begins to make an appearance in Jessica’s life again, and her approach at recovery is renewed with a vigor and passion that weren’t there before.

This story has readers rooting for Jessica’s recovery as she goes from bed-bound, to walking. Unlike other stories that sugar coat the harsh reality that accompanies a disastrous incident, Van Draanen has fabricated an honest story that addresses all aspects of Jessica’s life. Younger readers can easily relate to her as she struggles with school and unyielding teachers, as well as talking with the guy she likes.

Van Draanen has woven together a beautifully crafted story that exemplifies the true meaning of love and friendship, and shows the power of determination. As Jessica’s relationship with Rosa continues to develop, she soon realizes that there is nothing she won’t do to ensure Rosa’s happiness— and soon, a plan for just that begins to take shape.

The Running Dream is an enthralling presentation of devastating sadness, as well as tremendous hope and incessant determination. The lovable characters are easy to relate with, and even easier to stand behind and root for. The raw emotions conveyed through the text will have readers laughing and crying as Jessica works toward her complete recovery. The beautiful friendship that blooms throughout the book exemplifies the true meaning of love, and shows the benefits of hard work. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever gone through tough times, and has worked to overcome their obstacles in life.

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