November 09, 2005

The Library of Congress lists this one under 'smuggling, alcoholism, single parent families and poverty.' And more.

I used to have nothing but a blanket contempt for drug dealers and soldiers alike. To my way of thinking, they both were murderers, and both chose their lifestyles. Carl Deuker's novel, Runner offers a thoughtful exploration of motivation and assumption. It elicits several questions, among them: What would you do to be thought a hero? Would you join the army? Would you sell drugs? How far could you be driven to bend your ethics to keep body and soul together?

Long distance runner Chance Taylor and his alcoholic, Gulf-War Veteran father live, on their broken-down 30-foot sailboat, a bare half-step away from homelessness. Clarence's worries about his father's chronic joblessness lead to concerns about power and grocery bills, moorage fees for the boat slip, and an host of other concerns that average teens don't have to shoulder. Clarence can't afford the fees and the shoes to run for the high school, so he runs on his own, and one day he meets up with someone who makes him an offer he can't refuse. It's just picking up a few things.

Financial peace of mind seems too close to ignore. His Dad just can't pick himself up, and his Mom's never coming back. It's up to Clarence to be the hero of his own story this time. But what does it take to be a hero? Clarence's dad saw action in the Gulf War, and now he's just a broken down drunk. A high school thug shows up in a spiffy military uniform and is suddenly a respected member of the community. He is mourned as a hero when killed on duty in Iraq. Who is a hero? And what does heroism take? Deuker dispels simple assumptions in this thoughtful, timely, and relevant novel.

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