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Running on the Cracks Hardcover – September 15, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Still reeling from the recent death of her parents in a plane crash, Leo, a 15-year-old girl of mixed Chinese and English descent, runs away from an unpleasant living situation and boards a train to Glasgow. Remaining incognito in the city proves to be difficult, but she eventually finds refuge with a kindhearted, mentally ill woman. After seeing Leo's picture in the paper, Finlay, a 13-year-old Goth paperboy, figures out who she is. They become friends as he learns of her circumstances and volunteers to help her locate the Chinese grandparents she's never known. Finding them is imperative, as Leo doesn't want to be forced back to her aunt's home, a dangerous environment with a leering Uncle John. Donaldson's novel, told from the shifting perspectives of Leo, Finlay, and Uncle John, is slow to start, but picks up as Leo's predator uncle appears on the scene to track her down. American readers will find bits of the dialect hard to understand, but the slowly building suspense, strong characterizations, and a narrative that includes information about the Chinese immigrant experience in Scotland and insight into the lives of the mentally ill make the book a worthwhile read.—Shawna Sherman, Hayward Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“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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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.
My Summary: Leo is scared. She's not quite sure what to think of her kooky uncle anymore, and she doesn't want to take chances. What if he does something to her... Leo runs away. She goes in search of her grandparents, her only living relatives. She accidentally gets her photo in the newspaper, and had to hide. She meets a boy named Finlay, who seems to be the one who's going to put an end to her new freedom... at first anyway. But then Finlay becomes a friend to Leo, and he becomes her key to staying away from her uncle. Leo will do anything to keep from being found and being sent back there. She ends up staying with a crazy lady who is hospitable enough, but refuses to take her medication and whose friends aren't much better. Then she realizes that her Uncle is on her tail. How will she stay away?
What I thought: Running on the Cracks was an enjoyable read. When I first saw the cover, I imagined an action filled YA novel with a lot of suspense. Although there was suspense, it wasn't anything that got your blood racing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book when I sat down to read it, but I had to be in the right mood to do it.
The Writing: The format of writing was different than I'd read before, but it was very engaging. It switched viewpoints, had pieces of the story in written-story form (meaning a whole chapter was just a letter or a newspaper article or an e-mail), had whole sections where it was just dialogue (those were my favorite sections--mostly it was when characters were on the phone, and they were all very funny) and even had a few chapters from the "crazy" person's perspective (it's always interesting being inside the head of a madman...). Also, the writer has written the book in an accent, meaning that some of the words are spelled wrong so that you can hear it pronounced with an accent in your head--quite engaging and welcoming. The writing was good, but as it was foreign it was a little odd (i.e. "lead" instead of "leash" etc), but not in a bad way.
The Characters: The characters were pretty relatable. I felt scared for Leo when she was running from her Uncle, and sorry for Finlay when we was stressed about lying to his mom. The characters were really cool, well developed, and some of them were kooky. I really liked Leo and Finlay. They had such cool names! I loved the "President", but the "Godfather" was my favorite. He was just so... weirdly cool... (I don't know, maybe that's because I'm a little insane myself). Not too much, I rather enjoyed it actually. It's always fun to read something a little different.
The Plot: The plot was pretty believable, and I know that (sadly) there are true stories like this all the time. I don't know how the police are over in Scotland but I doubt very seriously that Leo would have gotten away with hiding from the American police for as long as she did from the Scottish police (but that's my opinion as a police and spy novel writer). Although there was suggestion of the Uncle trying to sexually abuse women in the book, it never actually happened, and it was very age appropriate.
My Recommendation: I would recommend it to a friend ages 11-15, maybe even a little younger, but not older than that. Again, I enjoyed it when I sat down to read it, but it wasn't quite my personal attention level (I'm 18). All in all, I enjoyed this book a lot.
Thank you to Henry Holt In Group for supplying my review copy of this book!
Its about a Scottish-Chinese girl whose parents die in a plane crash, and she is forced to live with her creepy uncle. She decides to run away and find her father's parents who disowned him, and makes her way to England where they live. Meanwhile her disturbed uncle is conspiring how to get her back.
Once you get past the British humor and terms the book is very good, and I found myself unable to put it down. So, I would recommend this book to anyone.