book cover of the running dream

Magan: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

book cover of the running dream

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen [website]
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240 Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: track runner, prosthetic leg, dreams that change
Format Read: Purchased hardcover copy.

Summary: Jessica’s dreams of attending college on a track scholarship are shattered after she loses part of her leg in a bus accident on the way home from a track meet, leaving her uninsured parents with medical bills they cannot pay.


It’s time to step away from the current releases and focus on one that you could easily find at your local library without the super long wait list. In the midst of our move, my goal became to read physical books on my shelves so I could pass them along to another avid reader. The Running Dream has fantastic ratings on Goodreads and I was so intrigued by the summary.

Jessica is a high school track star. In an early-season track meet, she breaks her personal record and beats her greatest competitor in the 400m race. The school bus is involved in a major accident on the way home. One of her young teammates dies; Jessica loses part of her leg. The Running Dream is composed of different parts that dictate the struggles she faces — the realization that she’s not going to be a runner again when she first wakes up in the hospital, going home and having to return to school, seeing her friends continue to participate in track, and learning how to walk with a prosthetic leg.

Van Draanen told Jessica’s story in such a relatable way that allowed me to completely empathize with Jessica but still breeze through the story at a rapid pace. The chapters are short and very intentional, the story progressing and moving forward, allowing for a lot of time to pass throughout the story. One minor quip I had was the running analogies made at the end of each chapter that sometimes seemed a little unnecessary, but definitely drove the point home.

The strongest aspect of The Running Dream is what happens beyond Jessica’s personal growth. There’s a lot of exploration about how we perceive people and how other people see us. Jessica feels broken and questions people’s intentions when they want to hang out with her. She begins to feel like a charity case. But her accident also causes her to befriend people she wouldn’t have ordinarily noticed and that leads to this awesome conclusion to the story that isn’t really about Jessica at all. She goes through such a powerful internal transformation, and really, the end is what made the entire book for me because it left me feeling empowered.

If you’re looking for something that’s outside of your normal realm and features a character with struggles you may not have faced in your young adult reading ventures, check out The Running Dream. Aside from all the goodness I’ve discussed above, you’ll also get a lovely helping of a strong, strong best friendship and a super sweet love interest.

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Magan: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, A Vlog Review

Howdy, y’all! Man it feels so incredibly wonderful to type these words. It feels so good to be here talking books. And yes, quite literally below, I talk books in my vlog. I’m really wanting to mix things up a bit and as I’m just on an altogether different schedule with a newborn, vlogs seem like the best solution for me right now. My hope is that it’s a) not boring for you and b) fun to watch. I really want your feedback about what you think so if you’ve got some, leave it below in the comments. Okay? Alright, let’s get started!

Book Review for Open Road Summer by Emery LordHighlights of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord:

  • Incredible friendships — something I want to see much, much more of in the books I read. I get kind of bogged down by the drama sometimes. Reagan and Dee are friendship gurus.
  • Mucho, mucho hotness in the form of Matt Finch. He’ll make you swoon. And laugh. And want to know him in real life.
  • A girl who is incredibly relatable because she’s made some stupid mistakes. Who hasn’t done something they regret? * cue the crickets*
  • ORS made me feel just about every emotion and made me miss my BFF, Estelle, somethin’ fierce.

A few quotes, as promised:

“He’s kind of beautiful, in an understated, comfortable-looking-way — the kind of guy who doesn’t mind seeing a rom-com with you and gives you his hoodie when you’re cold.”

“We’re saying a lot within the silence: We can’t and I know and But I want to and Me too. The effort of restraint burns in my chest — a physical ache from holding back.”

“Laughter feels like our flotation device — it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”

“If we could capture feelings like we capture pictures, none of us would ever leave our rooms. It would be so tempting to inhabit the good moments over and over again. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives backwardly, who memorializes moments before she’s finished living in them.”

And a shameless photo to introduce you, officially, to my daughter Everett:

I spend a lot, lot, lot of time holding this little lady. How could I NOT? Sometimes when I’m really craving some reading time, I rock her and read my book aloud to her. She did, in fact, hear a good chunk of Open Road Summer. I hereby vow to turn this girl into a book-lover. Or try my darnedest. 😉


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Estelle: Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin

Rules of Summer by Joanna PhilbinRules of Summer by Joanna Philbin ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Poppy/Little Brown
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Summer, Long Island, first love, upper class vs. middle class
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Rory is thrilled to be leaving New Jersey and her dependent mother for a summer in the Hamptons — even if she will be working for a family without pay. (But there is free board!) When Rory arrives, she finds out that the family’s daughter, Isobel, is also her age but based on her behavior is pretty positive they won’t be friends. Isobel, on the other hand, has just come back from school in California, isn’t feeling her country club friends anymore, and feels even more out of place in her house. But things take a turn for the better when she bumps into Mike…

One thing that I absolutely love about reading is discovering books set in places you know. Right away, I felt bonded to Rules of Summer because of buzzwords like Montauk Highway, Hamptons, and even Stony Brook. I spent my freshman and sophomore year of college out in Southampton, and even though my school was in debt and closed (true story), the Hamptons are such a special place to me. (Like where I went on a first date with my husband.)

Summer is all about that escape. Rory has an opportunity to hang out in the Hamptons; sure she is working but the “away from her mother and all her drama” makes the free board and no pay worth it. For Isobel Rule,  she’s back in the fray, returning to a family she never felt a part of, and friends she suddenly finds totally superficial. Her solace is all about the surf. These two girls come from totally different worlds but are forced together when Rory is recruited to give Isobel driving lessons.

I have to applaud Philbin here because she doesn’t prolong the whole “these girls have it out for each other” thing we see in a lot of books. While they really have no reason to be friends, there’s no reason for them not to be either. I’m glad we got the positive side of the coin here because Isobel needs a voice of reason and someone on her side and Rory really needs to let loose and enjoy herself for once. The girls are able to give each other those things, and, just in time, because…

BOYS. There are two of them. And they are very cute. (In fact, I like to call this book Nantucket Blue x 2 because we get to see two girls fall in love for the first time in Rules of Summer.) Isobel meets Mike when she gets caught in the surf, and oh did it remind me of the anxiety and excitement of falling so hard, you are practically sinking. She is so used to playing a game with guys that when she finally feels serious about someone, she’s not too sure how to act. (Especially since he’s older and a lot more experienced.) Their chemistry is so gosh-darn pulsating that I think it took away from Rory’s own forbidden romance a bit. While still sweet and fun, hers felt a bit rushed and not as thoroughly explored. (Notice how I didn’t tell you who Rory’s mystery guy is.)

So what’s at stake in Rules of Summer? A ton. Family secrets come rushing out, Rory is not exactly truthful with Isobel about her love life, and is Isobel’s relationship forever? Let’s not forget Mrs. Rule either — this lady may look sweet and kind but she “rules” a.k.a. dominates with an iron fist. What does this mean for both Isobel and Rory?

Even though the end shows up a little too abruptly and some big moments aren’t given the attention they deserve, Rules of Summer had me practically hearing the roar of the ocean in my backyard and truly invested in the lives of these two girls. And the good news? There’s a sequel in the works! I’m so looking forward to that!

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