CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 36. . . .May 18, 2018
A Time to Run. (One-2-One).
Lorna Schultz Nicholson.
Aurora, ON: Clockwise Press, 2018.
203 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Allison Giggey.
(Sam) As we walked into Sir Winston Churchill Secondary, Stuart kept the conversation going by talking about music and video games, asking me if I’d heard about different rap songs he liked or if I’d played this video game or that video game. I listened and answered his questions. I wasn’t a huge gamer so didn’t know a lot of the games, unlike Stuart who would play all day long if he was allowed.
Although I didn’t want to be the centre of attention, I was. Guys who weren’t even my friends high-fived me. Girls smiled at me like I was the puppy in the pet store. That girl Ginny, who had sent me a few tests, smiled at me like I was a celebrity, and boy, did it make me uncomfortable.
When Stuart’s aide, Tony, came to get him, I had the feeling Stuart was going to bolt. I touched his arm. “Go with Tony, Little Man. I’m going to class too.”
The bell rang and Stuart slouched his shoulders, but he went with Tony.
(Stuart) All day, I was pumped up because we had a Best Buddies meeting and Sam was back. I didn’t get to see him during the day though because Tony made me stay in the room and do work. And so did my teacher because I didn’t do it at home. Don’t they know I don’t care? It is hard for me. I hate it. Are they all morons? Plus, having to do work I didn’t want to do and waiting to go to a meeting I did want to go to wasn’t a good combination because I couldn’t concentrate. I kept breaking my pencil so I wouldn’t have to do it.
I tried to run too, but Tony blocked me. I wished I had Claire back as my aide. She was slow and had bad reflexes too. I mean, I could start running—take three steps!—before she took her first step. Plus I was agitated (my mother’s word) because I had to meet with the school counsellor, and my mother and father came in too, and we talked about why I said my mother made me work all night to fix my bedroom wall. I don’t know why. I wished people would stop asking me stuff like that all the time. Don’t they know I don’t know the answers, and when I say, “I dunno,” I mean it?
A Time to Run tells the story of Stuart, who was born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and Sam, a star basketball player who suffers a dramatic cardiac event that leaves him unable to play his favourite sport. The two boys participate in the Best Buddies program which pairs students who have intellectual disabilities with their peers to participate in social activities. When Sam’s future plans seem to fall apart before his eyes, he needs to figure out a way to find himself; helping Stuart join the track team in an effort to focus his desire to run might just be the way to do it. Meanwhile, Stuart is struggling to learn how to cope with changes in his life and to understand when it is—or isn’t--- time to run.
One of the strengths of A Time to Run is the voice. The perspective changes back and forth from Stuart to Sam, and the individual characters speak in very specific, distinct voices. Stuart’s is especially interesting; short, choppy sentences reflect his impulsive nature and give him a childish quality, despite his age of fourteen. Longer, rambling sentences let readers into his jumbled thoughts. His chapters are also written in a way that displays his naïve or innocent nature. For example, while certain events, such as Sam’s cardiac episode, are made clear to the readers, Stuart clearly doesn’t grasp the enormity of the event. The changeover to Sam’s perspective in alternating chapters is smooth but distinct. His chapters show more reflection and successfully display the inner thoughts of a teenage boy who is in the middle of a huge life upheaval.
Nicholson’s novel, while sometimes lacking in excitement, is a solid piece of realistic fiction. Everything in the story is believable; the clear and linear plot allows the focus to remain on the characters, and that’s where the real value is in this novel. Nicholson’s characters are familiar and relatable, but rarely stereotypical. The athletic main character and his basketball playing friends don’t fall into the category of the popular, often insensitive jocks; in fact, Sam’s teammates are quick to visit him in the hospital to lend support and even make an effort to get to know Stuart. Sam’s love interest is an athletic and level-headed girl, and his interest in her isn’t connected to her beauty—in fact, his first description of her describes her as “sweaty”. It’s refreshing to see one fictional character notice another based on personality traits as opposed to appearance.
One thing that I struggled with in A Time to Run was the dialogue of Sam’s parents, Bosnian immigrants, who had spent time living in a refugee camp. While I recognize that, in reality, these the two adults would almost certainly speak in broken English, I’m not sure it was necessary to write their dialogue in that manner. It’s distracting at the best of times and almost comical at the worst of times. I could see the heartfelt moments between Sam and his parents being disrupted by the way their sentences are phrased, especially if this book is being read by a struggling reader who might not understand why the dialogue is written that way.
Overall, I found A Time to Run engaging and informative, but it might find more use as a classroom teaching tool than as a part of a regular library collection.
Recommended with Reservations.
Allison Giggey is a teacher-librarian from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
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