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Runaway Hardcover – September 12, 2006

64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-8–Readers wont look at homeless people in quite the same way after meeting Holly and seeing her through five long months on her own. An urban, female version of Gary Paulsens Hatchet (Macmillan, 1986), this novel chronicles the daily struggle for food, shelter, safety, and cleanliness that becomes the focus of life once a home and income are stripped away. Twelve-year-old Holly knows a lot about living on the streets, since she lived that life with her drug-addicted mother before the womans death from an overdose. She determines that it is preferable to continuing in her abusive foster home. A journal provided by a compassionate teacher is where she records her lonely and difficult struggle for survival. While the plot has the occasional convenience, readers will be drawn to the gripping details of both physical and emotional landmines hidden in the ordinariness of everyday life. This is a great book to hand-sell or booktalk to young teens who enjoy a dose of emotional trauma in their fiction or for reluctant readers who need suspense to keep them turning the pages. Van Draanen has shown great versatility in adding another dimension to her already respected body of work.–Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

From May until November, Holly writes in her journal, by turns fierce, angry, scared, heartbroken, defiant. Her teacher gave Holly the journal in the hopes of allowing her to work through her mother's overdose and stays in a succession of foster homes. But Holly has more immediate issues--hunger and shelter and not being cold. Running away again from an abusive foster family, she makes her way by stealth and cunning to Los Angeles. She writes poetry in her journal, too--vivid and wired poems that it seems a smart 12-year-old actually could write. She refuses to see herself as homeless, but as a gypsy, making a home where she can--libraries and schools are among her favorite places to hide. As her situation gets increasingly desperate, readers long for Holly to find a bath and a hot meal and someone to care for her. The ending of this taut, powerful story seems possible and deeply hopeful. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375835229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375835223
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,253,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Through writing, I open up my heart and soul in ways I never could in everyday life. The joy, the pain, the wonder and loneliness I felt in growing up, meld into stories which I hope will help kids believe in themselves and have compassion for those around them."--Wendelin Van Draanen

Wendelin Van Draanen is the winner of the 1999 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children's Mystery Book for Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes is a 2003 Edgar Award nominee.

Visit Wendelin Van Draanen's Web site at for the lastest on The Gecko and Sticky, Sammy Keyes, Shredderman, and more!

How in the world did I wind up writing a book about a kleptomaniacal, talking gecko lizard? I'm the first to admit-talking animals are not my thing. First person, realistic fiction-that's what I like. And yet, after Sticky appeared as a sidekick television character in my Shredderman series and uttered his first "Holy guaco-tacarole!" I was hooked. He's so funny. And so full of mischief.
I always develop a backstory for my characters to get to know them. Even if they're secondary characters, I have to understand their background and motivations before I let them into the story. The premise of the third Shredderman book (Meet the Gecko) is that a television crew comes to town to shoot an episode, and Shredderman helps out the star of the show. Not wanting to deal with the legal complications of using a real television show, I made up my own: The Gecko and Sticky. In the process, I came up with the hero (Dave Sanchez-a boy who has the "superpower" of being able to walk up walls, and is known as the Gecko), the sidekick (Sticky who is, as you already know, a talking gecko with . . . h'hem, sticky fingers), the villain (the deadly, diabolical, and definitely demented Damien Black), and Damien's sidekicks (the Bandito Brothers, who are, in fact, not brothers, but a thieving mariachi band).
It was definitely wilder than anything I'd come up with before, but hey-it was just a made-up TV show, right?
Ah, how diabolically infectious made-up TV shows can be!
Sticky, you see, got under my skin. His "Ay-ay-ay"s and his "What the jalapeno was that?" and his "You cut me to the quick, senor" enchanted me, and I was sorry when his role in the Shredderman books was over.
After the Shredderman quartet was complete, I began getting lots of fan mail from kids (and teachers) asking me to please write more Shredderman books. It was tempting, because I love Nolan and the gang. But I'd completed my mission with the quartet; so instead, I started writing The Gecko and Sticky.
My first attempt resulted in an over 200-page manuscript. That was closer to a Sammy Keyes novel than a Shredderman book. So I hacked it up, threw it out, and started all over.
My next try had me at 150 pages-still too long, and something about it wasn't quite right. So I chucked it and asked myself what in the world I was thinking, writing in the voice of a lizard.
But then on a flight from New York to California, I started hearing a voice. It wasn't my voice. Or the guy snoring in the seat beside me. It was, you know, a voice. One in my head.
Yeah, we writers hear them, and although we will almost certainly deny it if you press us about it, we also listen. It's how I wrote Swear to Howdy; how Bryce appeared in Flipped; where Holly's poems came from in Runaway . . . and it's how the narrator took over the storytelling for The Gecko and Sticky.
It's a man's voice in my head. (Okay, I concede that I might need some help.) But he's funny as all get-out, and I like to listen to him. He's the voice of someone who loves the art of storytelling; of someone who will hold a child's wide-eyed attention as he shares the wild antics of a boy and his mischievous gecko; of someone I'd plead, "Just one more chapter, please?"
So I hope that explains it, because I really must go. He's talking to me again and I've got to get back to Dave and Sticky. They are, after all, in the midst of some deep, diabolical doo-doo . . .

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Twelve-year-old Holly has had enough of "the system." She is not going to let another foster dad touch her, or allow another foster mom to hit her. If she runs away, she knows she will have to fend for herself, but at least she won't have to worry about being locked in a utility room without food, or having her head shoved in a toilet as punishment for refusing to be touched. And, most appealing of all, she will not have to face being called a liar by the adults in "the system."

Holly believes that trusting adults can only result in trouble for her, and she cannot bring herself to take a leap of faith with her teacher, Ms. Leone. However, when she gives Holly a journal and suggests she explore writing as a source of comfort, Holly decides to give it a try, even though she is certain it is a waste of time: "Giving me this journal was a totally lame thing to do. You think writing will get me out of here? You think words will make me forget about the past? Get real, Ms. Leone!" (p. 1). However, over the next several months, Holly finds that the journal is the only friend she can trust, the only one that is always there for her and, ultimately, the only guide that keeps her on track to something better.

RUNAWAY, presented entirely as journal entries, follows Holly from May 17th until December 1st, as she chronicles her life on the streets and her constant search for food, a bath, and a warm place to sleep. Some of the poems seem a bit much to have come from the pen of a twelve-year-old, until one considers that Holly's life as a "gypsy"--inspired by a way of life one would hope is a bit much to actually exist in the real world, but, unfortunately, is neither farfetched nor unrealistic--makes her mature expression of ideas more than plausible.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Life has made Holly tough. She grew up quickly, too quickly. Her mother was a heroin addict; her father, who knows. She was a witness to her own mother's death due to a drug overdose. After that, she bounced around from foster home to foster home, living in five houses in less than two years.

At the age of twelve, Holly finally succeeds in running away from her abusive foster family. She thinks living on the street will be nothing compared to the abuse she suffered at the hands of the various adults who were supposed to take care of her throughout her life. She decides to go to California all by herself. She doesn't need anyone or anything - or so she thinks.

As with story Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dumphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen begins as a class assignment and is written in first-person journal entries. Even though Holly despises her teacher - remember, she thinks adults aren't trustworthy - she keeps writing in her journal throughout her travels. She sleeps outside on park benches, stows away on trains, and steals food to fill her empty stomach.

The author did a great deal of research for this book, and it shows. Runaway is a real eye-opener of a book. It deserves a lot of attention, and will inspire a great deal of discussion in the classroom and in the home.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By California Reader on September 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Twelve year old Holly decides that life on the streets would be better than staying in an abusive foster home. She recounts her experiences in a journal, and finds out that this is a tough environment. Wendelin tempers the rough parts of the book with some great poetry. The book is well written and should be read by all teachers, social workers and foster parents. The author dedicates this book to teachers everywhere and is a fitting tribute to them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on January 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When Holly's teacher, Mrs. Leone, gives her a blank journal, Holly is disgusted. Writing in a journal can't make her forget that she's a 12-year-old orphan and that her mother died of a heroin overdose, or that the foster parents she's living with abuse her, locking her in the laundry room for days and sticking her head in the toilet when she tries to defend herself. Mrs. Leone could never understand Holly and, in Holly's opinion, probably doesn't care to. No one knows what she faces each day because she tells no one. But when boredom threatens to drive her crazy one night in the laundry room, Holly starts to write. And despite her scorn at the mere idea of keeping a journal, she continues writing.

When Holly can no longer take the abuse, she runs away. Unlike her previous attempts, this time she succeeds, making it out of town and heading west. She takes only the essentials...and her journal, filling long hours of fear and boredom by updating Mrs. Leone, despite the fact that her teacher will never see her or the journal again.

We follow Holly through her struggles, victories and worst nightmares as she heads toward the Pacific Ocean and does whatever it takes to stay alive and free from her biggest fear --- Social Services. No stranger to the streets, Holly sleeps out in the cold, steals food and supplies, hides in the hot, dark cargo hold of a cross-country bus, and lies to everyone but her journal. She enjoys reading (and eventually writing), loves dogs and plans to become a vet someday by learning math and science with stolen textbooks (though she feels guilty about stealing anything but food), and somehow manages to hold herself and her dreams together in the face of constant and life-threatening dangers.
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