This certainly isn't twelve-year-old Holly's first time running away from one of her various foster families, but this time is different.
This time she not only runs away, she actually gets away - away from her cruel foster parents and life being shipped around all the time--that's got to be good, right? Freedom at last!
Maybe it sounds good, but there's something wrong with that plan: Holly has nowhere else to go. Freedom quickly turns into a struggle to survive on the streets as Holly crosses the country in search of food and a place to sleep.
Hopping onto trains or sneaking into the luggage compartment of a bus sounds like an adventure
turns out not to be nearly as fun as it sounds. Holly, though, is stubborn; she's not giving up, not getting found. She's not going back to the cruel Bender family, who lock her in the laundry room when they feel that she has misbehaved. She still misses her mother; even though her mother was a junkie, at least she cared about Holly. Since her mother's death, though, Holly's luck has gone from bad to worse. Surviving on her own is tough, but at least she's free of her abusive foster parents, and she's never going back.
Runaway is Holly's journal chronicling her experiences as a twelve-year-old runaway. Careful readers of Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes books may recognize her as a minor character in Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy, but this isn't a sequel to any of those books, and it is not at all necessary to have read them (though the connection is cool). This is a touching, realistic,
beautifully written story that anyone will be able to enjoy.
Holly's voice is a major part of why this book is so wonderful.
It is a great story, but it wouldn't be the same told from a third-person point of view. Holly is a budding writer who started the journal because of an English teacher. As she writes, she even starts writing poetry,
which is quite good and a great addition to the story. It's even more of a window into what
goes on in Holly's heart and mind as she searches for a safe place to call home than her regular journal entries.
It is also a window into a world most of us know nothing about, showing the daily struggles of people without a roof over their heads or a place to call home. Homelessness is a big issue, one that people perhaps don't know enough about or pay enough attention to, and this novel brings that to the attention of readers. Another problem that will come to the reader's attention is the flawed foster care system in America. These problems don't get the attention that they deserve, and reading Holly's story could inspire some readers to try and help, or at least to notice and care a little more.
Even though Wendelin Van Draanen has a history of writing fabulous and popular novels (Flipped and the Sammy Keyes series, for example), Runaway
exceeds the expectations of even her biggest fans. The characters are well-drawn, the plot interesting, and the story as a whole powerful and absorbing.