Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
Strong girl friendship is something I want to see a lot more of in young adult books. Girls often get misrepresented as catty or loners or their friendship crumbles like a stale cookie before the end of the book. I want to see more of the kind of friendships that will change your life even if they only last a year or a summer, but are filled with so much love that they could potentially last a lifetime. These friendships often fall apart too, but they are more substantial, and the impact of them jumps off the pages where they’re found. Although highly toxic at times, this kind of friendship was at the heart of Kody Keplinger’s newest novel Run.
Bo Dickinson is the town slut, or at least that’s what everyone says. The only thing wilder than her head of golden red hair is her reputation around the small, conservative town of Mursey, Kentucky. Agnes Atwood is the town blind girl and everyone tip toes around her disability and seems to have their own idea about what she can and can’t too all because of a congenital conditions that severely limited her vision even in optimal lighting. The two form an unlikely but undeniably strong bond as they seem to be the only ones in their small town who can see past the other’s reputation.
Agnes and Bo were the stars of this book, even if they weren’t always the stars of their own lives. Keplinger pulled off the “right side of the tracks and wrong side of the tracks”-esque friendship at the heart of this book without it seeming cliché, a testament to her obvious care in developing these opposite main characters. Bo’s rough edges and attitude perfectly balanced out Agnes unsureness about the new freedom she starts to fight for in this powerful novel about friendship, limits and the unpredictable forces that control us.
Beginning with the night Agnes and Bo decide to run away, the story is told in alternating chapters. Bo’s narration covers the present where Agnes and Bo have left Mursey. Agnes’ narration tells the history of the girls’ friendship up until the night they run away. This parallel narrative structure works for the book, although at times it interrupted the action of the present. Still, the chapters complemented each other well and exposed the similarities in the past and present of their ever changing friendship. This also resulted in some perfect cliffhangers that kept me turning the pages and leaping into the next chapter.
However, Bo and Agnes aren’t the only stars of this enthralling contemporary adventure. Agnes’ parents toe the line between doting and controlling. Meanwhile, scenes about Bo’s drug addict mom were hard to get through. Agnes’ best friend Christy plays the role of the small town holy roller set on marrying her high school sweetheart. The secondary and tertiary characters fill out Agnes and Bo’s story, even if it feels at times that all of them are against the two narrators in one way or another.
On the surface, this novel’s plot was simple, which isn’t a bad thing. Two opposite girls become friends and run away when one of their circumstances goes from bad to worse. However, the nuances that Keplinger adds to the story through Bo’s broken home and sexuality and Agnes’s rebellion against the distorted perceptions of her disability keep this story fresh and made me keep turning the page. The novel has its fair share of twists and turns, heartbreaking and touching surprises along that way that keep pushing the story forward. Overall, Keplinger told a good story. It did what it needed to do.
In addition to its diverse range of characters and steady plot, this novel had a stunning setting. Keplinger brought the details and feeling of small town Kentucky into her story and it leaped off the page, sometimes feeling stronger than any of the characters. If you’re looking for a book filled with southern charm, Run is the book for you.
The only big issue I really had with this book was pacing. The beginning of the book felt a little bit slow and it took me a few chapters to really become invested in the story. I even almost put this book down and then I would have missed this clever tale. Stick with this book to the end. You won’t regret it.