Although Young Adult (YA) novels are not my preferred genre, I do like to read and review them from time to time. Generally speaking, I have enjoyed reading the ones I have reviewed. Girl in the Run (2015, Nimbus) is by no means an unsatisfactory read, but it is definitely written for the female teen audience. In fact, a few chapters in, I was getting annoyed by all the ‘hot guy’ references and talk of kissing dreamy guys. However, I persevered because I knew there was a message buried somewhere in this 300+ page book.
Girl on the Run is the story of Jesse, a 17-year-old high school track and field champion whose goal is obtaining a full university scholarship for track. However, the sudden death of her father/coach leaves her in no mood to continue running and she hangs up her sneakers for good. Not knowing how to pass the summer and now in need of some money to help her mother fund her upcoming college year, she signs on to be a camp Councillor for the summer. A mix-up in her cabin assignment occurs due to the fact that her name is mistaken for a guy’s name. Consequently, Jesse finds herself in charge of four mischievous twelve-year-old boys instead of girls. Worse yet, they are crammed into a converted nurse’s cabin rather than a full-size cabin. While Jesse gets her own room, the antics of the boys are only one thin door away. This leads to a lot of the comical content of the book, which Jesse, much to her credit takes in stride. The other main players in the camp are Kirk, the head Councillor (with whom Jesse has a love/hate relationship), Lacey, the oh-so-perfect Councillor of the nearby girl’s cabin (think Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde), Spencer the spoiled kid from Hell and Lewis (the requisite sympathetic gay character).
Aside from the romantic fluff, there are some good takeaways from Girl on the Run. Jesse’s grandmother is quite hip and is the mature ‘free spirit’ that, next to her late father, has the most impact on Jesse’s way of thinking. Just before leaving for camp, Jesse asks her: “What if this is a mistake?” Grandma replies: “That’s how you learn. I didn’t get this smart from always making the right choices. Besides, the mistakes are the best stories.” Jesse makes plenty of mistakes throughout the book, so I guess Grandma’s statement is true in that respect.
Jesse’s role model (and namesake) is Jesse Owens, four-time Olympic gold medal winner at the 1936 Berlin games. The book is sprinkled with his inspirational quotes and Jesse uses them to motivate herself and others, such as when Spencer shows the desire to run too. Jesse tells him: “Jesse Owens said that running was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. And that you could choose any direction and go nice and slow, or fast and hard against the wind. It’s the runner who can seek out new sights, just on the strength of their feet and the courage of their lungs.” Spencer asks what that means. Jesse replies: “It reminds me of the simple joy of just being able to run at all. And it’s not just where you’re going, but what you’re going through.” This highlights the need for young people to have a positive role model, whether in sport or in academic life.
While this novel will definitely appeal to teen girls, at 300+ pages it may turn some off from picking it up for a casual read. However, It would make a good book for a book report since there is a positive message in Girl on the Run. The fact that Jesse is dealing with the loss of a parent (and an influential one at that) allows for some introspection, although Jesse prefers to deal with her grief and guilt in her own way, which is not always best. On the negative side (from a parental perspective) there is a fair bit of heavy kissing and some consensual (but safe) sex. Aside from that, I thought the author could have stressed or focused on the theme of overcoming such life challenges such as death, failure and lack of confidence in oneself rather than the romantic scenes and camp hi-jinks. Superficially, Girl on the Run is a fun YA read, however there is a deeper message buried in there for your teen to discover.
B. R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Lois Duncan. When she’s not putting her characters in awkward situations, she works as a registered nurse. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband and their two children. She is a member of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. This is her first novel. Visit her at bethanymyers.blogspot.com