Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review: Running Wide Open by Lisa Nowak

Running Wide Open by Lisa Nowak
Publication Date:  June 13, 2011
Publisher:  Webfoot Publishing
ISBN:  9781937167004
Genre:  Young Adult, coming of age
Author blog:

Summary (from Goodreads):  Cody Everett has a temper as hot as the flashpoint of racing fuel, and it's landed him at his uncle's trailer, a last-chance home before military school. But how can he take the guy seriously when he calls himself Race, eats Twinkies for breakfast, and pals around with rednecks who drive in circles every Saturday night?

What Cody doesn't expect is for the arrangement to work. Or for Race to become the friend and mentor he's been looking for all his life. But just as Cody begins to settle in and get a handle on his supercharged temper, a crisis sends his life spinning out of control. Everything he's come to care about is threatened, and he has to choose between falling back on his old, familiar anger or stepping up to prove his loyalty to the only person he's ever dared to trust.

Review:  Cody Everett is a 15 year old troubled kid who has a messed up family and a messed up life.  After getting caught with his buddies plastering graffiti at the zoo, Cody is given the choice of military school or living with his uncle Race.  Choosing to live with his uncle - a stock-car racer, he figures he will still end up in  military school, but soon finds out just what life should be.  He has to learn to trust and be trusted.  He has to learn to make the right decisions, and to stand up for what he wants and needs.

I must say that I really had a hard time getting into the "Before" section of the book.  It was rough and hard to read, but after getting into the book, I know that it was necessary to include that part to get a good feel for Cody, and what his life was like - so that ultimately, you could better understand his motives later on.  The voice in this story is so strong.  There is no question about the emotional connections built into the plot, and it is necessary to get the message across to the reader. 

The characters in this book were so vivid and strong.  You got a good feel for each one, and could find yourself looking at things from the point-of-view of each main character.  It was great to see a "tough guy" show some good qualities, and how he eventually get comfortable showing those qualities.  Many novels portraying bad boys keep them as bad boys.  This one shows what is deep down in that character - really fleshes him out.

I am a huge NASCAR fan, and I believe that this helped me understand a lot of the book.  Cody's uncle Race is a weekend, Saturday night short track racer.  I live less than a mile from a short track myself - listening to the cars sling themselves around the dirt track every Friday night here.  I could put myself into the story, pulling on all of my senses so I was right there with Cody and Race. 

This coming of age story would be one that I feel many of my male students could really get into.  Again, I think the "Before" section could be a little iffy for them - there is a lot of swearing and bad language.  But once you get through that part, it is wonderful.  And, I think the boys would think that that was great!!  

This book is one that young adults can truly relate to and should find itself as a favorite to many.  


  1. Thank you for the review, Sara. I really appreciate you taking the time to sum up your thoughts about my book, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Reviews are such a nice service that bloggers provide to authors. :)

  2. I've read Running Wide Open and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm happy to see this book getting the reviews and publicity it deserves. Nowak's second book in the series, Getting Sideways,is already available on Kindle and e-pubs. Good reading.

  3. I loved this book. It held my attention all the way through, including the "before" part. I don't feel its appeal is primarily for males--I'm neither a male nor a stock-car racing fan, but the characters were so vivid and likable I was drawn right in. I also enjoyed learning about race cars and racing. It was done in a way that made it interesting and I always like learning something new in a novel.


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