Sarah's Stars

Wendelin Van Draanen. Runaway
Laurel-Leaf $8.99  ISBN 978-0-440-42109-2  281 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

So where am I?

You're not going to believe this, but I made it over the state line. In one day! I have totally escaped!

This is what I did: I took the school bus to the farthest stop, found a city bus stop, figured out the map, told a lady who was waiting at the stop that I'd lost my money and didn't know what to do. She bought me a ticket, and I just stayed on that bus until it turned north, then I got off.

So, okay, I'll interrupt myself to tell you that I do have a destination.

West.

I don't care where west, just somewhere warm. So southwest, I guess. It's hard being homeless in the snow, okay? I'm not doing that again.

Oh, and one more thing-I've decided I'm not homeless. I'm a gypsy. I'm a gypsy and my home is the great outdoors.

Holly is twelve years old, orphaned, and homeless, I mean, a gypsy. Her father died in a tragic accident and her mother of a heroin overdose. After escaping her abusive foster home Holly flees across the country with only a couple of dollars, a backpack filled with supplies and a journal. Homeless people don't write in journals, right? First Holly writes in it out of sheer boredom but as the days grow into weeks and the weeks into months Holly finds comfort and solace in putting her thoughts on paper. She somehow finds herself directing her written words towards the teacher who gave her the journal: Ms. Leone. As Holly overcomes such obstacles as finding food and shelter, shoplifting (even though she hates it), wandering through the streets of Los Angeles and finally, making it to the beach, the reader is invited to go along on the journey too. And what a magical, haunting journey it is.

Runaway's tight plotline and exciting adventures offers a story that will captivate most who choose to read it. Throughout all of Holly's joys there is still always a shadowy sense of foreboding and tension. Yes, she may have made a cardboard house, or she may have lucked out and found a few dollars lying on the road but you can never shake the sense that something else that is equally bad will happen. And usually it does. The whole time you are rooting for Holly to succeed. We don't quite know what her ultimate goal is, but we know that we want her to be safe and happy. I really liked the added poetry in the journal and for the most part, it flowed smoothly with the rest of the book. The only qualm I really had with the book was how Holly always said the phrase, "You hear me?" Whenever she's mad or annoyed just insert an embittered sentence, add a comma, and then, "you hear me?" Yes, we hear you! Other than that, while not a book with a perfect fairytale ending, Wendelin Van Draanen has penned a frighteningly real portrait of a tough-as-nails heroine who will linger in your thoughts long after the last page has been turned and the book has been set down.

I give Wendelin Van Draanen's Runaway four out of five stars.

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