November 20, 2019
Dear Wendelin Van Draanen,
Your book is an epitome of inspiration and motivation to me. You bravely deal with real issues, bringing
them out into the open. Unfortunately, I didn’t see those issues as real.
The Running Dream was breathtaking. I cheered when Jessica received her running leg, cried when she
visited Lucy’s grave, laughed at Rosa’s jokes, even gasped at the revelation that Mrs. Rucker was a
runner. Being the soppy romantic I am, I jumped up and down when Jessica and Gavin finally figured
out their feelings towards each other. These are characters I fell in love with every time I read The
Running Dream . But that was what they were: characters. Fiona, Rosa, Gavin, even Jessica, were just
people on a page.
Suddenly, everything changed. My grandmother had hip surgery that caused a break in her leg. This
surgery was devastating to my grandma. She was such an active woman, running a farm with my
grandpa and working her entire life. Now, she was confined to a hospital bed. This surgery would
replace her annual visit to see us. I was bitter that I couldn’t see a grandmother whose visits were few
and far between. Every visit, I leave a book. These books are inspiring and uplifting, such as Out of My
Mind, Wonder, and The War That Saved My Life. After her surgery to place her bone back together, I
had to buy her a copy of The Running Dream.
Two days later, she sent my parents this text:
Please tell Sarah I crossed the finish line early this morning at 2:30 am when I finished reading
the book she sent! I couldn’t put it down! I loved it and its message. Tell her thank you again!
I called her later that day to discuss the book. She told me she didn’t want to read your book at first. In
that moment, I could hear tears in her voice. She has never explained exactly why, but I knew it was
because she could see herself in Jessica. Reading the start of your book was her reliving surgery and the
hospital. Grandma Mary is stronger than pain, so she pushed through it. She told me it was so worth it,
that the ending of your book inspired her. That she was so grateful she had something to enjoy while she
was stuck in that room.
Your book became so much more to me then. Jessica became real. My grandmother didn’t tell me
specifically, but I believe when she felt as though she couldn’t do it anymore, she saw Jessica telling her
to never back down. Your book made me see my grandmother as a warrior, more than I ever had before.
The Running Dream brought me so much closer to my grandma. She was strong enough to walk on a
broken leg for two weeks, long before she knew the bone was broken.
It peeled back layers of pain and proved there was a warrior beneath them, both in her and in me. Your
book caused me to experiment on what I could do if had been Jessica. Hopping around on one foot,
trying to get out of the shower with a single leg. I could see the difficulty, and it made me see struggles
in lives all around me. I began to appreciate struggles in daily life and appreciate other people for going
I know that if this book hurt for us to read, it must have been so much harder for you to write. Your
book was not only needed in the world of literature, your book was needed in my life. Thank you for
taking the time to delve into Jessica’s world. To show us her joy and pain. The pitfalls of learning to live
without a leg. The hurt of realizing the pain of being seen for nothing but a disability. Then revealing the
elation that comes from climbing a mountain that seemed unconquerable. The world became so much
better when your book entered it.