Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Runner

The Runner, by Cynthia Voigt
$6.99 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 1416903410
This delightful and surprisingly complex novel came to my attention only because there's a handsome, shirtless guy on the cover. What I found once I opened it is a thrilling, thought-provoking, and grown-up novel, marketed in the Teen Section of the bookstore.
It takes place on the rural Maryland coast in 1967. The public school system is being forcibly integrated, and racial tension is high. Meanwhile, the draft is in effect because of the Vietnam War, so many students graduate only to be forced into combat. It is in this highly volatile setting that our story unfolds.
Our hero is a sixteen year old farmboy named "Bullet" Tillerman. He's the youngest of three children whose older siblings have moved out, leaving him alone on a pathetic farm with his overbearing father.
Running is the only escape. Bullet runs (as most runners do) for his own reasons: for purpose and meaning in life. It's very zen. However, when he joins his high school track team, he's paired up with a black boy in school, and an unexpected friendship blossoms.
Bullet is the strong, silent type. Much of the story's action comes 
from the exceptionally deep supporting characters. The black teammate is a boy named Tamer, with whom Bullet runs cross country marathons through rugged terrain. Their friendship is, naturally, competitive and manly. Still, it's nice to see a racist young rube becoming friends with a black kid, even if it is in fiction.
Just as complex is Bullet's employer, an immigrant crab fisherman named Patrice, who was orphaned in Europe and fled to America from the Nazis. An older, wiser friend is just what an impetuous boy 
like Bullet needs. Especially since his own father is a despicable, low-life malcontent.
This book has been given numerous awards for excellence in young-adult writing, most notably from the American Library Association (very prestigious). The storytelling was rich and rewarding, and the characters are as realistic as members of your own community.
This book is sublime. Please check it out yourself and share it with a friend who runs.

1 comment:

steve said...

Hey! I agree completely! 'The Runner' is a great book - don't be fooled by its classification as 'Young Adult' ... it'll hook readers of ANY age.