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Running on the Cracks Paperback – 26 Oct 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
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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.
When Leo's parents tragically die in a plane crash and things aren't going well at her new home with her auntie and uncle, Leo runs away to discover her long lost family in Glasgow. Through her discovery she is not only reunited with family members but makes very special friends who she soon considers her new family.
This is a perfect novel for teenagers as it covers such important subjects such as death, mental illness, sexual abuse, neglect, friendship, family and child safety.
The part that resonates most with me and I hope it does with teenagers too, is when Leo is encouraged to let her family know she is safe. Leo is so scared she will be made to go back to live with her aunt and uncle, where it is unsafe. There is an anonymous number she can call to explain her circumstances and to state she is safe which enables steps to be put in place to protect her and promote her care.
Julia Donaldson also mentions Aberlour Child Care Trust in her novel. They are Scotlands largest children's charity and the only charity providing a refuge for young runaways in Scotland. This is what I love about 'Running on the cracks', not only is it a thrilling, well executed and heart warming novel it has such important messages running throughout that are vital to our children's future and wellbeing.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free ARC in return for an honest review.
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.
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