Book Review: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

running_dreamThe Running Dream is a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. It follows the story of a high school girl named Jessica who loses one of her legs in a school bus accident. This would be a tough experience for anyone…but Jessica is on the track team. She doesn’t just love to run – she considers running just as important as breathing! This book takes us through Jessica’s emotions, her mental and physical challenges, and her extraordinary journey to her “new normal” life.

I’m not a runner. In fact, I am more of a creative mind than a physical one. I wasn’t sure I could fully get into this book, but I could, and it was an awakening experience. Not only did it make me eager to experience the feeling of running so adeptly described by the author who is a runner herself, but I learned so much about life and its challenges.

There are just so many life lessons that The Running Dream takes the reader through. It is a worthwhile read for anyone, of any age. Empathy, compassion, and respect shine through as the reader learns that humanity shines through when understanding others.

(This book does not carry any inappropriate content and really is suitable for any age. It also has been awarded the Schneider Family Book Award; “it honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”)

-Danielle L., 7th grade

Book Review: Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City, by Wendelin Van Draanen

sammy_keyes_showdownIn Sammy Keyes’ latest adventure, she finds out that her mom is getting married in Vegas. She is getting married to Sammy’s boyfriend’s dad. This causes Sammy to freak out and try to find a way to crash the wedding. So when she hears that her friend Marissa is also going to Vegas, she makes the decision to go to Vegas with them– without telling anyone where she was going or what she was doing.

When she reaches Vegas she realizes that she cannot find out where her mom is or where she will stay the night. Using Marissa’s help she finds herself staying with them for a few nights until she finds her mom. However, Sammy’s archenemy, Heather Accosta ( Sammy’s boyfriends sister), and her mom Candi, are staying right across the hallway from the room Sammy is in. And if you have read the previous books about Sammy, you know just how bad that is. Will Sammy team up with the Accosta’s to end this Marriage? Can Sammy possibly be able to put up with them? And will she be able to stop this nonsense before it gets out of hand?

I highly recommend that you read the first fifteen Sammy Keyes adventures before you read this one. The first book is Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. If you have already read those books, then this book is the next in line. It is an enjoyable read and possibly one of my most favorite one in the series. With Sammy’s social and family issues this book definitely got me on my toes waiting to see what would happen next. (I had to read it all in one night since I couldn’t go to bed without finishing it.) I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

-Marilyn J., 8th grade

Book Review: Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway, by Wendelin Van Draanen

sammy_keyes10While walking into class one day, Sammy accidentally slams the door on her teachers beloved bird. Instantly killing it, Sammy runs into the nearest closet, with the bird, and hides there for the entire class period. Later that day, after leaving the dead bird hidden in the closet, Sammy hears that Heather, her worst enemy, has been blamed for the bird’s death. Even though Sammy knows that Heather didn’t kill the bird, she notices that Heather has been acting guilty anyway. What could Heather have possibly done to act so guilty? And will Sammy tell her teacher that she killed to bird or will she leave Heather to take the blame for her?

A suspenseful novel with tons of humor, Wendelin Van Draanen has written a book that will keep you on your toes the entire time. If you like a relaxing yet interesting read then is the book for you.

I almost forgot– this Sammy Keyes book happens to be the last of the series. The first book is Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief and the second book is Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man, so make sure you read these to understand Sammy and her archenemy a little bit better.

-Marilyn J., 8th grade

Book Review: Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen

flipped_coverI have seen Flipped on many bookshelves and had never thought it would interest me. So when it was assigned as an 8th grade required reading book for English, I did not get too excited. However, after reading it, I regret having passed it by so many times. It was that good!

What makes this novel unique is the way the story is written. Each chapter switches off between Julianna and Bryce, the two main characters in the story. This writing style enables the reader to understand how each character is feeling. Even though the way the story is written is complex, the plot is actually quite simple.

The novel begins when Bryce moves into the vacant house across the street from Julianna. That was when they were in second grade. From the time Julianna first saw Bryce, she knew they would be best friends. However, Bryce did not share her idea from the very beginning. He tries to avoid her as much as she tries to follow him.
Major events throughout the book test their soon-to-be friendship. At times, they wish the other were not in their lives at all. However, by the end of the book, the thoughts of both characters have ‘flipped.’ They have each learned about each other and realized what they had missed when they first met. This part shows the moral of the book about looking beneath the surface and not making snap decisions about a person before you get to know them.

My favorite part of the book was the ending, because it was very sweet and left me wondering what was going to happen next. I did not feel like there was too much of a cliffhanger, though the ending did leave some of my questions unanswered.

I could relate to this book when the characters were changing their minds about each other. I know that in real life, I change my mind on some things frequently. One minute I have made a decision, and the next moment, I have questioned myself and then completely change my mind. For example, this occurs on insignificant decisions like what to wear or more important decisions such as what elective to take in school.
I would rate this book a 9.5 out of 10 and would definitely recommend it to younger teens. You certainly do not want to pass it by at a bookstore or library like I did so many times. You will regret not reading it!

-Leila S., 8th grade