Monday, 3 October 2016

Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

Run by Kody KeplingerRun by Kody Keplinger (Bought) - Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a drug addict mom. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never stayed out past ten p.m., never gone on a date and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally-blind daughter, but Agnes isn't quite sure what they are protecting her from.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs more deeply than anything else. But when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, police sirens wailing in the distance, Agnes is faced with the biggest choice she's ever had to make. Run, or stay?
From Goodreads, but edited slightly for accuracy.

I've wanted to read Run by Kody Keplinger for quite a while, ever since hearing it was an #OwnVoices novel with a legally-blind main character. But the recent controversy around a VOYA review, which recommended Run for older readers due to one of the characters being bisexual (more about this in a separate post later), spurred me to buy and read it sooner to show my support for Keplinger. And Run is such an incredible novel!

I'd normally give my own summary of a book, but I'd only be pretty much repeating what the Goodreads summary above says, so I'll leave you with that.

At it's heart, this is a book about strong, close female friendship. Run is narrated by both Agnes and Bo in alternating chapters, with Bo's chapters set in the present as they ride across Kentucky trying to find her dad, and Agnes' chapters covering how she and Bo became friends and their joint history, all the way up to Bo's first chapter when they run. It was genius of Keplinger to show us how their friendship came about alongside their escape across the state, because not only does it give us context to their friendship, it shows us exactly why Agnes would run with Bo.

Bo is such a great character. For as long as Agnes can remember, everyone in her town of Mursey has known the Dickinsons are people to steer clear of. The whole family are criminals, alcoholics or drug addicts, and just no good. Bo has her own reputation as someone who sleeps around, and is constantly sex-shamed. But as Agnes, and we, get to know her, we discover that most of the rumours about her simply aren't true. Bo doesn't have a great home life; her dad walked out on her and her mum when she was younger, and her mum is a drug addict who cares very little for her. If this wasn't bad enough, she also has the surname of Dickinson, and is treated like crap because of it. Colt, her cousin, is the only person - before Agnes - that Bo can count on. She comes across as brash and strong, because she needs to be; the world isn't kind to her, and so she's had to become someone who can fight her own battles, because Colt can't be there all the time, and if she doesn't, she might break. Bo has so much heart, and loves Agnes dearly, but she's also scared underneath it all. Scared of losing people, scared she's not good enough, scared of what the future holds for her.

Agnes is the good girl, sweet and lovely. Or rather, that's all she's been allowed to be, due to her overbearing and overprotective parents. Agnes is legally-blind; she has some sight, but everything is blurred, and she can't see any details. She recognises most people by their voice, because she can't see clearly enough to tell one person apart from another - except for Bo, because of her distinctive red gold hair. At school, she has to have pages from her text book blown up and printed for her in order to read, or she has to use a magnifier, a glass dome that she runs over text, making it appear big enough for her to read. She also uses a cane, and in areas she doesn't know so well, needs to be guided by someone. Agnes has been legally-blind since birth, and doesn't know any different, but she's starting to feel suffocated by her parents. There are so many things her older sister did at her age that she isn't allowed to do. She's not even allowed to get the school bus home from school, even though it stops at the church, and it's a journey she makes every Sunday with her parents, without needing guidance. But no, she can't do that on her own. She's not allowed to parties on her own, and her friend Christy doesn't like taking her because she would have to guide her all night and that's not much fun. She's never had a date, never even kissed a boy, because she's practically not allowed out to socialise.

When she and Bo become friends, the suffocation starts to feel even worse as Bo can pretty much do as she pleases, and the few things Agnes' parents allow her to do with Bo - her first party, an hour at a restaurant - just make her want more. She feels trapped and has no idea what the future holds for her. Will her parents allow her to go to college, even? Is she going to be stuck in this house with them for the rest of her life? It's Bo that stops her from completely losing it, because, finally, in Bo she has someone who just sees her as another person. Bo knows about her sight, knows she needs a little help, but still treats her exactly the same as anyone else. There are no kid gloves with Bo. Agnes' disability isn't a burden to her, and sure, some things have to be thought out a little more because of Agnes' limitations, but in general, Bo just sees a girl, her friend, someone she really cares about, who really cares about her - and doesn't just see her surname and the rumours. They see each other.

I really felt for Agnes, because her life isn't easy. Not because of her disability, but because of how she's treated. Despite her treatment being the bigger problem, there is so much detail about Agnes' disability; this isn't a small part of her life, it affects everything she does, but that's ok. You never once feel like you should pity the "poor, legally-blind girl" for her disability, because, apart from her overprotective parents, Agnes can still live a life much like ours. We feel bad for her because of how everyone treats her, but not because of her disability. And as her time with Bo shows, she is still capable of most things and having a fantastic time. Keplinger is legally-blind herself, and I really appreciated how she brought Agnes and her disability to life in this #OwnVoices novel. Before reading Run, I didn't know what legally-blind meant, and now I feel I not only have a good understanding of the disability, but the knowledge that a legally-blind person isn't incapable. I also want to say how I love the fact that there is a cane on the cover - I could be wrong, but this feels like a huge deal to me.

There's one other thing I want to touch on; Bo is bisexual. That's it. There's a bisexual character in Run, but as this book isn't a romance, it doesn't play a huge part to the overall story. It's significant when it comes to Bo and Agnes' friendship, because Agnes is the only person Bo has told. Bo tells Agnes during Agnes' narration, and though it's a big moment for Bo, wondering how this will be received, it's also a big deal for Agnes; Bo tells her fairly early on in their friendship, and it's a sign of trust - no-one has trusted her with anything as big or as important before. It's a huge deal for their friendship, because it's the thing that cements it. Agnes realises that their friendship means just as much to Bo, and that Bo really sees her; she's not someone to look after, she's someone to talk to, confide in, have fun with - a friend. Bo's sexuality comes up a few more times, but it's only ever in conversation, because this isn't a book about sexuality and Bo finding someone, just as it isn't a book about Agnes being legally-blind (although, of course, Agnes' disability comes up a lot more often because it affects her every day life), it's a book about friendship.

Run was such an incredible novel! I loved that the primary focus was on the strong bond between these two girls, and how they're friendship comes to mean the world to each of them. They really love each other and it shows. It's beautiful how they each need the other, and how, in turn, they step up to be their for their friend. It's such a wonderful novel! I highly recommend it.

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Published: 14th July 2016
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Kody Keplinger's Website

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