LIS 618 Literature Log

The First 10

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

by Ann Braden (2018)

Whole Class Read


Seventh-grader Zoey Albro focuses on caring for three younger siblings and avoiding rich classmates at school until her fascination with octopuses gets her on the debate team and she begins to speak out.

"Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do."


Ann Braden created a very special book with The Benefits of Being an Octopus. Zoey is one of the many kids out there who get lost in the shuffle. She is used to the notion that no one ever sees her as being important. Her mother is too busy, she is a nobody at school, and her mom’s boyfriend and his father would rather that she stay invisible. The first person who has actually cared and told Zoey that she was important is Ms. Rochambeau. Ms. Rochambeau opens Zoey’s eyes to the fact that she has to take an active part in her life.

Zoey is written as a character who you could imagine in your own school. The quiet girl who everyone thinks is a failure. The kid that is bullied for not being as clean as everyone else and wearing the same clothes day in and day out. The kid who works really hard at never being noticed, who eats lunch in some corner rather than around everyone else. By shining the light on her, we get this unusual insight into what life might be like for someone who doesn't get everything easily, who has so much more on her plate than just going to school and being social. The very notion of not having clean clothes every day is something many people face, but that the rest of the world often doesn't even consider.

Zoey has a fascination with octopuses, stemming from a DVD that kept her younger brother calm. When most people think of the octopus, it is only about their 8 tentacles and perhaps about the fact that they shoot an inky substance as a defense. But Zoey knows so much more about the octopus than most students. Her fascination with hem is a very creative way to tie things together and look at her feelings. When she thinks of an octopus, some of details that stand out to her are the fact that they can camouflage themselves, have multiple arms to grab things all at once, and they are amazing escape artists, throwing a spray of ink at their predators. Zoey tries to be like an octopus, stays as unnoticed as possible, but when people are cruel, she has nothing to throw back at them. When she finally finds her voice at the end of the book, she has become the octopus though using her brain and words.

But it isn't just Zoey's reality that forms a window with this book. There is Silas, the misunderstood loner who likes to go hunting with his father. There is Fuchsia, Zoey's only friend, who has more issues than we realize. There is the heartbreak in Zoey's little brother who is suffering living under Lenny's roof. So many conditions that those living a comfortable life of privilege don't consider. This is one of the few books that I've read that really take a look at poverty and how it impacts one's entire life.


There are a number of important lessons/talking points in this book, for teens and adults alike. I think that after reading this book, it would be great for a book club or class to have a debate of their own. They could throw out topics to discuss, but I think it would be important to include poverty and guns. Even if we don't always agree with the "other side," it is important to hear what they have to say, you might learn something.

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Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

by Preston Norton (2018)
Realistic Fiction

Nearly a year after his brother's suicide, sixteen-year-old Cliff "Neanderthal" Hubbard gets recruited to make life better at Happy Valley High by the school's quarterback, who claims he had a vision from God (World Cat).


While the notion that a teenager spoke to a divine being while having a near death experience was preposterous, allowing for artistic license, I thought that this was a very engaging and enjoyable read. Sometimes books ask you to suspend reality for a moment and this was one of those cases.

High school can be a trying time and the segmentation by cliques and labels seemed to be especially strong at Happy Valley High School. When Aaron winds up with a "list from G-d" about things that he and Cliff need to do to make their school a better place, it is one door that opens to a different way of doing things. Aaron's character starts out as merely a catalyst to get Cliff moving. Cliff needed the list desperately to have purpose and to see the forest for the trees after his brother's suicide. The fact that the list itself had a lot to do with Cliff on a somewhat personal level was a glaring point when I was reading it, but again, I let that go. I can't imagine that Cliff and Aaron would ever actually be friends, but we needed to concede the idea that the big jock made a huge change.

Schools are microcosms of a larger world. That is what a lot of this book was about. As a whole, it would be amazing if we could find the way to bring communities together. That's what this list was about. With so many things isolating us into small groups where everyone shares the same opinions these days, it is important to keep the larger community in mind and to see varying points of view. I was also incredibly moved by Shane and Noah’s story and how it unfolded. In the end this is a book about hurt and healing.


The value of the story is to stop and actually look at the people around you. People are more than labels and it isn’t worthwhile to let cliques lock you in to one group of people and one way of thinking. I almost think that it would be cool to do an exercise similar to one done when teaching the Holocaust with this story. Give everyone a label, like jock, nerd, and JT, then have them behave in the way that they think that group acts. Every once in a while, the teacher could incite something like telling a jock to pick on a nerd. After, they could all come back and talk about how it felt to wear a specific label as well as how it felt to watch others.

“Some days, I don't want to believe in a God. Other days, I just... I need to believe. Horrible things happen, all over the world, every day. We ask ourselves: Why would God let this happen? And we want an answer to that question so bad, but there is no answer. Instead, there's just this... hope. This hope that, somehow, things can be right in the end. And I pray everyday that it's true.”

Preston Norton, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

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New Kid

Jerry Craft (2019)
Graphic Novel


New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real (World Cat).


I adored this book and think that the hype was well deserved. It is hard enough to be the new kid at a new school, but when you feel that you stand out because you don’t look or act like everyone else it makes being new even more challenging. Even when you are new, if you manage to keep an open mind and find your tribe, things might just have a way of working out. Most teens have felt like the outsider for one reason or another. I can see this being a story that many teens can relate to.

Another important part of this story is the fact that Jordan wants to go to art school, but that his parents send him to a prestigious private school instead. Many parents have a difficult time believing that their kids can make it as artists, yet those kids have to keep persevering anyway. So now Jordan is at a "fancy" school trying to balance his friendships from his neighborhood with the friends he is making at school. There is even an attempt to find the balance between his two closest friends at his new school, Liam, who is white and wealthy, and Drew, who is black and not.

I also think that there was a lot of power in telling this story via graphic novel. There are many shades of people in this world, many qualities that might show their race or socioeconomic status. But when an author has to specifically mention that someone is black or wearing a hijab, it calls it out. There is something to be said about having to pay attention to the visual clues to understand some of the discomfort that Jordan felt and that honestly, it wasn't only his discomfort (or the other black characters), but that even Liam was uncomfortable with his privilege.


Jerry Craft wrote this book and says that "it is the book I wish I had when I was a kid." With the growing popularity of graphic novels, New Kid is one of the only ones that features a black main character who isn't a superhero. New Kid also showcases the idea of "microaggressions." These little pokes and prods by themselves don't amount to much and are often not even meant as any sort of insult, but they build up, and the characters in New Kid show what their impact is like after years of hearing the same thing over and over. For a teacher to not know your name, even if you've been in their class for an entire year. For another faculty member to think you are the basketball coach simply because you are black. These stereotypical representations that get exhausting after a while.

One interesting idea to really get teens to think about the concept of microaggressions, is to have them each write down something that they have heard or has been said to them that could be considered a microaggression. The anonymous cards could be placed into a fishbowl and read aloud by someone else. It would probably be a very eye-opening experience for everyone involved.

Just Listen

by Sarah Dessen (2006)

Edwards Award


Isolated from friends who believe the worst because she has not been truthful with them, sixteen-year-old Annabel finds an ally in classmate Owen, whose honesty and passion for music help her to face and share what really happened at the end-of-the-year party that changed her life. (World Cat)


I went into this book thinking it was your general YA romance novel. It wasn't. Annabel is the type of character that I think a lot of teenagers can relate to. She is non-confrontational, tells people what she thinks they want to hear, and is just trying to get through high school. But life isn't that simple for anyone and rather than focusing on the romance aspect, there is a layer beneath that about date rape, gossip, the social hierarchy, and how to be honest with yourself and the world.

From the outside, Annabel seems to be living the fabulous life. She and her sisters have been modeling for years and her two older sisters are even living in NYC trying to make a career out of it. She has been in the "popular" crowd for years. But it turns out that life isn't so great and that even in a glass house there can be many hidden secrets.

I haven't read a book like this in a really long time so it was a refreshing change. I enjoyed the story and really liked the character of Owen. There is a lot of symbolism in this book about the fact that Annabel lives in a glass house. She often notes people driving by and seeing "the perfect family," when in reality they are a family struggling. For example, the reason for Annabel's popularity was actually that she was friends with Sophie, someone who definitely deserves to be titled a "mean girl." When she gets on Sophie's bad side, she realizes the depth to how she didn't treat others well while under her influence. One of Annabel's sisters is suffering from an eating disorder, their mother struggles with major depression after the death of her own mother, and no one is willing to be open and talk about anything.

My favorite character, by far, is Owen. Owen is that friend that we all wish we had who helped us face life and be honest with ourselves as well as with others. He has been the brunt of a lot of jokes himself, having had some rather large anger management issues, but he has done the work and gotten the help to get past that. Being a romance novel, there had to be the romance included, but alone, Owen is a way to illustrate that we can be bigger people if we are able to ignore the pettiness of high school. As a music lover, Owen's need to have something on in order to focus was familiar. Music touches something deep in us and we need different styles of music for different parts and phases of our lives.

“So you're always honest," I said.

"Aren't you?"

"No," I told him. "I'm not."

"Well, that's good to know, I guess."

"I'm not saying I'm a liar," I told him. He raised his eyebrows. "That's not how I meant it, anyways."

"How'd you mean it, then?"

"I just...I don't always say what I feel."

"Why not?"

"Because the truth sometimes hurts," I said.

"Yeah," he said. "So do lies, though.”


Annabel lives in a glass house. We all try to make ourselves out to be perfect, but the reality is that very few people are even close, and even they aren't always happy. The important thing that we all should be trying to achieve is a balance and to be honest with ourselves. Annabel has to learn all of this the hard way. She is afraid to stand up for herself and to rock the boat when the "popular" crowd is cruel. But in the current world of #metoo, Annabel is the story of the girl who was afraid to tell people what happened and it isn't until the end that someone else suffers the same treatment, that she finally opens up.

Rather than focusing on the #metoo aspect, this book definitely calls for a music activity. Kids are so used to hearing one style it would be amazing to have them hear different types of musical genres and discuss how each of them makes them feel or what they like and don't like.

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika L. Sanchez

Multicultural Title


When the sister who delighted their parents by her faithful embrace of Mexican culture dies in a tragic accident, Julia, who longs to go to college and move into a home of her own, discovers from mutual friends that her sister may not have been as perfect as believed. (World Cat)


I had to approach this book twice to fully put my feelings together about it. On my first read, I struggled with the fact that the "summary" being promoted with the book wasn't really what it was about. Going into something with a certain expectation can change your viewpoint.

I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a coming-of-age story for Julia. It is a story of how she figures out who she is in relation to who her mother expects her to be. It is the story of what it is like to be a 1st generation child, one who often has to walk the line between their traditional culture and American culture.

Julia feels trapped by the perfection of her sister, Olga. When Olga dies suddenly, those expectations become more pronounced as her mother saw Olga as the perfect one, the good girl who followed Mexican cultural norms. Or they thought that she did. Olga's death was a turning point in many ways. While their mother went into a deep depression, Julia found evidence that perhaps Olga wasn't all that she seemed and went on a quest to discover just who her sister really was. But that quest was the background story that led to Julia's self-discovery.

Olga's death makes Julia feel even less perfect as she feels the need to fill her sister's shoes. Olga was the one who seemed willing to make family first, to stay home and take care of everyone else, and to fill her time with cooking and cleaning. Julia wants to get out and see the world. She wants to be the first to go to college. She would rather read a book than socialize with her extended family. She doesn't like to listen to Mexican music, but prefers indie-rock. She even starts to date a white boy (gasp!). Julia's quest to figure out what life Olga was really leading brings her to parties she might never have gone to and also has her dating Conner.

Part of the beauty of this story is seeing the world of a 1st generation American from that person's eyes. To see the confusion of the world your family is in juxtaposed with the ideas you have for your own future. When Julia is shipped of to Mexico to be with family there, she also learns that there are explanations and a history to why her parents behave the way that they do. Additionally, because her parents are undocumented immigrants, there is always a fear of being discovered and the sadness of not being able to go back and visit family.

The other important aspect of this book is a mental health perspective. Julia is hurting. Both of her parents are hurting. Her father's pain has been there for years and was simply overlooked. For Julia, it is more than just not fitting in. When her mother cuts off her access to the outside world, the straw has finally broken the camel's back.

A lot of important topics were handled really well, such as grief, religion, and mental health. Julia struggles with feeling completely trapped by her family and life. Her mother can be a bit smothering, and even the "perfect" Olga was hiding a completely different life. The biggest problem was that I couldn't connect with Julia. I found her incredibly judgmental, rude, and completely oblivious to anyone but herself. This is not the "perfect" book, but it is an interesting read that offers a lot of insight into the immigrant world.


This is an excellent example of a mirror/window book. For those who themselves are of immigrant families, Mexican or not, this is a great mirror. For those who are not Mexican, this is an important book to shine the light on what it can be like to be an immigrant and especially what it is like to be 1st generation American.

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 1

story and art by Kiiro Yumi (2015)

original concept by Hiro Arikawa

[English translation & adaptation, Kinami Watabe]



In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves--the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it in for her! (World Cat)


This was my first attempt at reading manga and I will start by saying that I am not a fan. I understand reading from right to left as that is how we read in Hebrew, but the illustrations were choppy, the speech bubbles constantly changing, and lots of little side comments that really had nothing to do with the story. I also don't think that I was able to tell some of the characters apart. I know that there is a big audience for manga, but I don't feel like I am part of it.

The book fell way short of my expectations. When we were given the list of choices, a book about militant librarians who were fighting censorship? sounded great. Kashara has dreamed of being in the Library Defense Force since she was a child, but she makes mistake after mistake. She also somehow missed the memo that those in the DF sometimes also worked in the actual library and had to know their way around. There is a love hate relationship going on between Kashara and her instructor, Dojo, as well. It felt jumpy and disjointed, though that probably had a lot to do with my discomfort reading manga.


As much as the book frustrated me, there are some great talking points that arise from this book. Censorship has always been around and it would be interesting to take a number of banned books, lay them out on a table, and have students walk around and write down why they think they were banned. That could lead to talking about censorship and intellectual freedom.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

By Meg Medina (2013)

Pura Belpre Award Winner

"Yaqui Delgago wants to kick your ass. That's what some girl tells Piddy Sanchez one morning before school. Too bad Piddy doesn't even know who Yaqui Delgado is, let alone what she's done to piss her off. All Piddy knows is that Yaqui hates her-- and she better watch her back because Yaqui isn't kidding around. At first Piddy just focuses on trying to find out more about the father she's never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy's life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off and running away from her problems? In this poignant and all-too-realistic story from award-winning author Meg Medina, Piddy is forced to decide exactly who she is versus who others are trying to make her become--and ultimately discovers a rhythm that is all her own." (Jacket)


"Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass." That's the very first line of this book when "a kid named Vanesa" tells Piddy after five weeks of being at a new school. But wait, "Who is Yaqui Delgado?"

Piddy Sanchez is having a tough start of the year. She had to move apartments which led to a new school in her sophomore year. Her best friend moved to Long Island and is so involved at her new school that she doesn't have much time for Piddy. She is trying to find out information about her father, who left before she was born, but who has made her mother become incredibly strict. And now some unknown kid wants to beat her up and she doesn't even know what she's done. At her old school Piddy was a top student, but now she is struggling to keep up with her school work while also constantly feeling the need to watch her back. She doesn't feel safe and she doesn't feel like she can tell anyone what is going on.

Meg Medina deals with the very real issue of bullying, with Latin culture, domestic abuse, and a desire to find something better in life. She also explores the repercussions of keeping secrets. From the first line of the book, Piddy feels trapped. She is being targeted for simply being herself and by unknowingly catching the eye of the school bully's boyfriend. She is told that she is stuck-up, too white, and that she is constantly shaking her ass. But as the book continues and she feels increasingly frightened by her environment, she moves toward escapism rather than actually trying to deal with her situation. When Yaqui finally catches up with her, there is no going back.

I struggled with the beginning of this book, not really feeling any kind of a connection with Piddy, but as the book went on, that started to change. Piddy was incredibly angry with her situation - having to move homes and schools. She was closed off to those around her and had a hard time giving her school a chance. But as pieces of the puzzle began to come more clear, I felt myself warming to her and the story. The overwhelming sense of fear that came with being bullied and then to add cyber bullying on top of physical bullying was understandably overwhelming and was told in a powerful way.


Obviously, this book brings up the entire topic of bullying and feeling safe. About the knowledge that there are people you can talk to who will do their best to find safe ways for you to deal with your situation. This goes for everything Piddy went through as well as the domestic violence that Joey was dealing with. It is also a very interesting look at judgements that happen within cultures. The notion of being "too white" is a big insult within Latin communities just as it is within black communities. Far too many teens have probably dealt with situations similar to this, though hopefully with less violence. The only way to deal with the bullying is to talk about it. To make those who are being victimized feel safe and not stigmatized. Teens need to talk about why they think someone resorts to bullying. Why Yaqui targeted Piddy when they had never actually spoken to each other. This is definitely a book that teens should read, especially if they live in larger cities.

“You know where this Yaqui girl is going to be in a few years if she doesn't change? She'll still be there, same as always in her old neighborhood--a nobody with nothing. And guess what? That's her worst fear.”

The Belles

by Dhonielle Clayton (2018)

narrated by Rosie Jones



"In a world where Beauty is a commodity only a few control, one Belle will learn the dark secrets behind her powers, and rise up to change the world"-- Provided by publisher.

In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But she soon finds that behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets. When the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia faces an impossible decision. (Worldcat)


Though this book started slowly and I wasn't sure what to make of Rosie Jones's posh British accent, the story built in such a way as to truly bring you into the bizarre world of the Belles.

In a world obsessed with appearances, being beautiful isn't enough. In Orleans, everyone was born with gray skin, red eyes, and wrinkled skin. This was the damnation that was thrust upon the people of Orleans when the Goddess paid more attention to her children, the humans, than the God of the Sky. But the Goddess brought forth the Belles to counteract his deed. Now beauty is a commodity and one that the Belles control with the power of their arcana. But Clayton also shows that this deep desire to be beautiful and to change your body to specific ideas of what beauty is comes with a great cost and the always present undercurrent that someone can take their need for beauty too far. Just like the need for extreme power, there is the need for extreme beauty, or in the case of this book, for both.

The story is told from the perspective of Camillia Beauregard. She is one of the six Belles coming of age this year and coming to the Kingdom to start her three years of service to the people of Orleans. More than anything, Camillia wants to be chosen the "favorite" - the Belle chosen by the Queen to live and work in the palace. Losing would be a massive blow. A challenge in reading, or listening to, this book is that Camillia comes off as extraordinarily full of herself, sure that she will be chosen, and is slightly grating on the nerves. Rosie Jones did a wonderful job of making her incredibly whiny.

You know before beginning this book that Camillia will wind up in the palace, though it doesn't happen as simply as one might imagine. You also know that there are some deep dark secrets being kept in the palace. As Camillia slowly learns that Belle life is not all that she was raised to believe, she wants to figure out what is really going on.Whether it is the cruelty and lies from the women running the tea houses where treatments are done or learning first hand that the princess's need for beauty and power are dangerous to anyone who is near her, the outward appearance of beauty in the world of Orleans is not the real picture.

While the biggest issue in the book has to do with beauty and the need to change the way you look, there are other issues brought up as well. One area is the relationship between Camillia and her sister Belles. While closest with her sister Amber, they are also battling it between each other for the favorite. Each thinks that they will be named the favorite and yet only one will win. They were also all raised with an understanding of what life was to be like as a Belle but it seems that only Adel has problems with it. She is shown to have never really been comfortable with the notion of being told how to change people and is the first to realize that they are being worked like slaves to make money for others with a gift that they were given. Both of these relationships take deeper importance as the book goes on.

An interesting look at the harm that can be done with an obsession with beauty. That power can corrupt and how often people put others down, or force transformations onto them, in order to make themselves feel better. Characters are bullies and fakes, not unlike our own world.


Clayton managed to create a world that takes on the notion of beauty as well as politics, two things that are alive and well in our own society. This book is also about the commodification of women's bodies. The only reason the people of Orelans feel that they need the Belles is that they have been told that they do. Even their mythology says that they are damned to be ugly and the Belles are their beacon of light. But who gets to decide what beauty is and why is someone making money off of it? The fact that the women who run tea houses enslave quasi-Belle characters who have some Belle powers, obtained through shady means, but not enough to be worked the way they are, is disturbing in a land seemingly run by women. There are questions of what specific shade a person is and how that makes them more or less beautiful. So much of what our teenage girls deal with on a regular basis is brought into the fantasy world of the Belles.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

by Jenny Han (2014)

Book versus Movie


Lara Jean has never openly admitted her crushes. Instead, she wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.


Sometimes you just need to read a lighthearted romance novel. Jenny Han gives readers just that with To All the Boys I've Loved Before. This is a story that I think will resonate with a number of teenage girls. Many girls have had a crush on someone that they couldn't or wouldn't tell or liked someone that they felt they couldn't have (ie, best friend's boyfriend). I quickly found myself enjoying the characters and the story.

What Jenny Han achieved with this book is a sweet YA novel with an incredibly wholesome protagonist, something we don't see a lot of. Lara Jean has never had a boyfriend and has really lived a sheltered life with her sisters, her father, and the boy next door, who happens to also be Margot's boyfriend. When Margot moves to Scotland for school, Lara Jean's world is altered in a massive way. But what really throws her life for a complete loop is when the love letters that she has written over the years to 5 different boys get mailed out.

The love triangle, even if part of it is an act, is another situation that plays out in the lives of teenagers. Lara Jean, Josh, and Peter are in a bizarre love triangle, but they still try to make each other jealous and struggle with moments of real confusion. While exaggerated for literary purposes, they are still realistic moments that teens have seen play out.

Overall, I thought that this was a great break from the heavy topics that are covered in so many YA novels. Like a good rom-com movie, this book is a "smiler" and allows the reader a silly moment of warm fuzzies.


Teens need some light books too, and this is a very silly premise, but allows them to consider the line between friendship and more than friendship. There are questions of which peer groups people belong to, labels that get put onto people, and the reality that we don't always know what those around us are thinking. Also, as we were given this as an option in order to watch the movie and consider the differences, it is a good lesson for students to consider as well. As of writing this I have not yet watched the movie, but doing that kind of comparison is a very interesting activity.

The Running Dream

by Wendelin Van Draanen (2011)

Disabilities Title


When a school bus accident leaves sixteen-year-old Jessica an amputee, she returns to school with a prosthetic limb and her track team finds a wonderful way to help rekindle her dream of running again. (WorldCat)


What would you do if the one thing you loved was suddenly taken from you? If everything you had worked for was gone? If you went from being "able-bodied" to not? This is what Jessica Carlisle deals with after a freak accident leaves her without one of her legs.

Rachel's frustrations, fears, depression, all feel incredibly real. As a runner whose life revolved around track and who expected to go to college on a running scholarship, losing her leg seems like the worst thing that could possibly happen to her. She shuts the people who love her out of her life and sinks further into her depression until one of her friends forces her to get back to life, especially given that she did survive the crash when one of her teammates did not.

When she finally manages to go back to school, it is in a wheelchair and no one quite knows how to deal with her. This seems to be a common situation for those in wheelchairs as the same issue happened in the book Roll With It, coming out in October. But slowly Jessica does start to figure out her situation, she moves out of the wheelchair onto crutches, and then into a prosthetic leg. Her determination to get better speeds her recovery and is the main focus of her attention. Her track team family is there to support her, even when it is hard for her to see them running and know that she cannot. They are also the ones who come together to try and raise money for a specially running leg for Rachel and to convince her that running is not gone from her life.

Initially, that's the plot that I expected from the novel. A few other items were thrown in there to make the reader think about what an accident like this could mean for an individual and for their family. But this book is so much more. Wendelin Van Draanen also brings in the character of Rosa, a highly intelligent girl who happens to have Cerebral Palsy. Rosa is truly why this novel is a Schneider Family Award Winner. Rosa is invisible to the student body at their school. No one takes the chance to get to know her and most don't even acknowledge her existence. Jessica gets "stuck" with Rosa at the back table in math because her wheelchair doesn't fit anywhere else. But she quickly learns that Rosa is an incredibly special person. Their friendship blossoms with understanding and respect. As the track team works hard to provide for Jessica, she realizes that shew wants to do something for Rosa, to make one of her dreams come true. It isn't because Jessica feels sorry for Rosa, but because they truly form a special relationships and Rosa's emotional intelligence helps Jessica heal. The two girls show immense strength and try to make more people understand that those who are "dis-abled" in some manner are more than their condition. They deserve to be seen as well.


Empathy is something that we want all of our teens to have, but people with conditions like Rosa's often scare people away. CP is not a well known condition and those who have it often have speech impediments that make it difficult for others to understand them. The Running Dream is both a dream that Jessica has as well as Rosa. This book is one of the best windows into Rosa's reality and is important for teens to read.