Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who's not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks. Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter -- protect her from what, Agnes isn't quite sure. Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else. So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn't hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo's dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and -- worst of all -- confronting some ugly secrets.
Kelpinger tells Agnes and Bo’s story through both their points of view, but Agnes’s sections are about the past and Bo’s the present. The alternating narratives of the beginning of their friendship and where their friendship ultimately takes them offers a clear “before” and “after” for their character arcs and certainly tempted me to read all of Agnes’s chapters for the sake of chronological order. But no, I read it “right.” It also creates the sweet feeling of things ending where they began–and I don’t spoil a thing by saying that. The choice to do so just makes how much the girls have changed that much clearer.
Road trip novels often work best through their emphasis on friendship and dynamic characters, but Run hits it out of the park and then some on both counts. Bo and Agnes don’t have an ideal friendship in the past or present, but it works for them. When Agnes’s lie-back-and-take-it attitude clashes with Bo’s don’t-take-any-bull life philosophy, it results in some… fun situations. Y’know, like assaulting someone at a street fair when they’ve already been reported as missing.
Thanks to the alternating timelines, we get to see the girls–particularly Agnes, who is definitely the stronger of the two protagonists–go through multiple character arcs. Her experience trying to find independence as a legally blind girl isn’t something I as a sighted (albeit nearsighted) person will ever understand, but her general desire to escape from under her strict parents’ thumbs will surely resonate with many readers.
What really makes Run a winner is how familiar yet extraordinary it is. I’ve read plenty of road trip YA novels and Run resembles all of them in the same way any one will resemble another, but this one pulls at my heart in a way other road trip YA novels didn’t. A road trip novel certainly hasn’t made me cry the way this one did! It nails the setting too; small touches like the way the characters refer to their parents as “Mama” and “Daddy” remind me this is the Deep South and contribute to Bo’s decision to remain in the closet to most people. Little ways setting influences characters and all!
What Left Me Wanting:
The only criticism I have is that Bo and Agnes’s voices blend together at times, making it a bit difficult to remember who is narrating at times. This can be a killer for a dual POV novel, but Keplinger does so many other things well that it seems inconsequential for once. You just remind yourself whose chapter it is and keep reading.
This book is not the dream road trip with your best friend. This is the reality of that road trip, which includes the way you and your best friend nearly murdered one another–and yet you two still look back on the trip fondly like the near-murdering never happened.
From the #ownvoices representation of Agnes’s legal blindness to the impossible-to-detail struggles Bo deals with, this is the character-driven YA novel you want on your shelf sooner than yesterday. I can’t recommend Run enough!
*incredible character arcs that pull at your heartstrings
*small touches make the setting vividly real