CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 29. . . .March 30, 2012
Salmon Arm, BC: Midway Press/Playfort Publishing, 2011.
179 pp., trade pbk., $13.95.
Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.
Review by Kay Weisman.
Louie said something quickly to Annie in a language Paul had never heard. Nor, he suspected, had anyone else. Suddenly Annie began wailing, shrieking and pounding on the table.
Muriel pulled away in fear. "Calm him down!" she pleaded. "Can he really only speak Sioux?"
"Afraid so," Paul sighed. "Sh... He's also prone to epileptic fits when he gets upset."
Muriel put her fingers to her mouth worriedly as Annie held her hand to her neck, gagging as if she were choking.
"Oh, dear," the woman said.
Paul and Louie are both running to avoid difficult situations in their lives: Paul is grieving the death of his father in a car crash; Louie is frustrated that he and his younger siblings have been sent to live with different foster families. Both boys run along the trails near their northern BC homes and are joined by Annie, a younger girl who dresses all in black and has a few secrets of her own. The trio become fast friends and concoct a way to show up their high school cross-country team (where the coach is secretly doping selected runners) by racing in a provincial tournament in Vancouver.
Sawyer's story falls short in many areas. Paul, Louie (who is aboriginal) and Annie are never fully developed as characters. Readers understand that Paul is angry mostly because he swears—but the language feels inserted into the story rather than natural for the character. Louie is described in racial clichés—his father abandoned the family; his mother is an alcoholic; and Louie often plays second fiddle to the more dominant Paul. And Annie's secret is that, despite her Goth exterior, she is a gifted writer.
The plot often strains credulity as well. In the final scene (excerpted above) the three pretend to be from a small northern BC reservation high school and manage to fake applications and documents and talk their way into participating (and, of course, winning) the event. When their ruse is uncovered, they are not punished; instead both boys are offered scholarships to the University of Oregon, and Louie gets an offer of adoption from the family caring for his siblings.
Those looking for novels about running will be better served by Eric Walter's Run (2003), Cynthia Voight's The Runner (1985), or Carl Deuker's Runner (2005).
Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.
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