Name of Book: Making the Run
Author: Heather Henson
Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books (a division of HarperCollins)
Audience: Young adults ages 16 – 21 (this books deals with mature themes of habitual drug use, sexual activity, and death). I would also lean toward using this novel primarily with females. I would not use this book with children under 16 without prior consent of the parents due to the themes involved.
Summary: A seventeen – going on eighteen – year old girl nicknamed Lu enters the final weeks of her senior year anticipating her break away from small town life. She and her best friend Ginny were united many years earlier by the untimely (unrelated) deaths of Lu’s mother and Ginny’s brother. Lu masks her grief and loneliness with habitual alcohol and drug use and Ginny joins her in her drinking. An ill-fated love affair with a man ten years’ Lu’s senior and the accidental death of a pregnant Ginny bring the crises in Lu’s life to bear. She is reconciled with her distant father before finally leaving Kentucky.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a realistic novel. The setting is Rainey, Kentucky which also serves as a character in the story – one that holds her back and holds the memories that she wants to escape. The town is depicted as stultifying and “partying” is the only outlet for expression among the youth. The use of Lu’s photographs as a means to talk about her emotions and her past is effective and interesting and serves as a connector between her and the other central characters in the novel. In another sense, the photos also serve as a narrator throughout the book. The plot is fairly predictable without any real surprises although the story moves quickly enough. The dialogue is limited, and there are only brief conversations. Most of the “speaking” comes from the interior dialogue of Lu herself. Other characters in the novel are, for the most part, only superficially developed.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/abilities: This novel is presented from the perspective of Lu who is a petite, young, white, middle-class, small town, female. Race and economic status are not really significant to the story. The culture of the small town is highlighted throughout the novel and presented in a negative way (i.e., Lu is fixated on leaving the town as soon as she graduates because “anywhere is better than here”). Drug use is presented as almost a “given” in the culture of this community among the youth and seems to be moderately tolerated by those in authority.
Scripture: I would not tie a specific scripture to this text because it would not be appropriate. There are themes here that have potential for discussion such as death, grief, and feelings of abandonment. However, I believe there are most likely other YA books that deal with these topics in more depth and with better awareness than this book does. The consequences for Lu’s activities are minimal and the quick resolution at the end leaves too many other issues completely unaddressed. It comes across as a girl whose life is so painful that she must get high every day to get by and then is suddenly able to cope without drugs and take off on her own. It has a “Seventh Heaven with an edge” feel to it…everything is neatly wrapped up in the end because the love of family conquers all, although it has less of a moral compass than the television show.
Theology: This book is not a good segue way for theological discussion. It does not lend itself easily to scripture and it would be a manipulation of both the novel and Scripture to attempt this connection. While the topics are relevant for today’s teens and young college students, they are presented in a veneer that is too shallow.
Faith Talk Questions:
I would suggest looking at other novels involving this subject matter to find one that deals more deeply with the topics at hand before using Making the Run. Books such as The Truth about Forever or Cures for Heartbreak are possible alternatives for discussing death and grief. However, if you were to use this book I would confine my discussion to the topic of dealing with grief and loss and I would lean toward using it primarily with adolescent females, since the related issue of engaging in sexual activity as another means for comfort, validation and escape is from a decidedly female perspective. I would discuss how grief can both unite (the two girls) and divide (Lu and her father) and how masking grief with drugs, alcohol or sex do not lessen the pain since the issues are being buried instead of being dealt with in an open, honest and compassionate manner.
Review prepared by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran, MDiv/MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2004
Making the Run by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.