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Running on the Cracks Paperback – 4 May 2017
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Leo's plight is universal and sure to attract the attention and empathy of many American teens. --Booklist
This fast-paced, richly characterized Scottish import, imbued with the important message that friends are the family you choose, will be a boon to libraries looking to add more world literature to their teen collections. --Kirkus Reviews
This engaging, bittersweet story follows biracial British teenager Leonora ('Leo') Watts-Chan... The fast pace and short chapters should appeal to readers, who will celebrate the hopeful ending. --Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
A runaway thriller for fans of Anne Cassidy and Jacqueline Wilson, by Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product description
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From the very beginning, the reader is drawn in, wondering what Leo is escaping from and what she's hoping to find. The story deals with hard-hitting themes of parental loss, mental illness, and the perils of teenage homelessness and yet, whilst quite gritty, it avoids being heavy going. Leo and Fin's mad friends provide Leo with a home and considerable kindness and for the reader, both interest and humour.
Running on the cracks is a fairly quick read for the younger teenager, written in short chapters with a fast punchy style, with an urgent credible storyline for early teens, and an ending that is hopeful yet realistic. I would certainly recommend this for young people who enjoy the contemporary settings and issues of Jacqueline Wilson's books, and I applaud Julia Donaldson's first foray into books for older readers. A definite success.
Leo isn’t the only young protagonist – Finlay, who is permanently at loggerheads with his parents as he goes through his Goth period, also features in this tale and provides a fair amount of the light relief. Although it deals with some fairly gnarly subjects like what happens to youngsters when their family circumstances become unbearable, mental illness and family feuds, there is also a lot of humour in this warm-hearted, thoughtful story.
For a start, there are some episodes that descend into almost farce – I kept thinking that it would make a marvellous TV programme as I read about the chase through the market, or Marina’s manic attempts to make tea. But there is also an undercurrent of danger as Leo is also being tracked by someone who doesn’t want to let her go…
Leo is a sympathetic protagonist who is struggling to cope with a terrible loss and not having very much support. I did wonder if she wouldn’t be going to a bereavement counsellor and she most definitely would have a social worker assigned to her case, but I can believe that she may well not see her often enough if it was decided that she was settling in just fine. I also loved Marina, whose kindness means that Leo isn’t left to fend for herself on the streets – but I’m aware that I am seeing her through adult eyes and I’d be curious to know what a child would make of her.
I found this adventure an engrossing read and while I felt that the pacing at the end became a little rushed and that the final resolution was just a bit too tidy, overall I think this is a highly readable book that raises some important questions about those who often become invisible in our society.
While I obtained the arc of Running on the Cracks from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
From the first instant I met her, I fell in love with Leo. She's one of those heroines who takes action at every turn and is courageous in the true sense that she knows there are things that are more important than fear. She's a real survivor and that is what I really love in a lead character. I think it's probably best to describe the other characters in this book as "a motley crew". Julia Donaldson has written a rainbow of characters that you know you would find if you took a slice out of society in any large city. It's almost as if her research consisted of going and sitting in a park one day and copying down every character she found walking by.
It's not just great characters that make this book, however, there's a real intelligence in the writing. A teen or older reader would probably recognise quite soon that underneath all the colours of the characters and the bright spots of hope, something very sinister is lurking. Uncle John is not just any old bad guy, he is the worst kind of predator and his short chapters dotted throughout the book are a real anchor to the story. If you were feeling uplifted at the end of the preceding chapter it won't last long as you feel even your internal organs repelling against this man and the worst kind of dread runs down your spine. A bad guy rarely truly gives me the creeps - mostly because I love a good baddy! - but here is one that had my toes curling in revulsion. Mary makes for another sinister element in this story. Although she starts the story well and takes Leo in, she becomes increasingly unbalanced and spirals into an unpredictable and unstable character that threatens Leo's safety and success.
I think what really makes this story is that it is so realistic - nothing is hard to believe and it has its foundation in a shocking truth that haunts too many children and teens today. That's what I think young adult books should be all about: telling the truth, helping growing minds to explore and deal with both the good and bad forces in life. The characters are colourful, the writing clever and there's a beautiful circularity to the story that goes a long way towards healing the wounds that the plot opens in your mind. A really worthwhile read!
It was a meaty read but my twelve year old grandson like it. He read it very fast because he wanted to find out what happened-always the sign of a good read!!
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Can we have a sequel please ?"