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Dead Run by S. Rodman

Rodman, Sean. Dead Run. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2012. Print.

I have no fear.

I’m tensed and ready, like a coiled spring. I know that the stakes in this race are high. But I am not afraid. I’m totally focused. Nothing exists except the starting signal. And the bike beneath me.

This is how Sean Rodman introduces us to his seventeen-year old protagonist, Sam. The first-person, present-tense narration locates the reader right there, right now, sharing Sam's excitement, his tension, his hopes and dreams. The trip through this fast and furious 120-page book keeps you on the edge of your seat, always wondering what's around the next corner.

Sam hasn’t had a lot of breaks. His Mom took off a few years ago, and his dad works the night shift at a warehouse. He knows his only ride out of a dead-end life will be on the back of his racing bike. So when he lands a job as a bicycle courier, and his boss Viktor just happens to be a former gold-medal-winning Olympic cyclist, Sam thinks he’s hit pay dirt. Viktor agrees to coach him, but in exchange, Sam has to deliver strange packages to empty warehouses, after hours. He suspects he’s involved in something illegal, but his drive to cross the finish line first blinds him to other choices. Even when his girlfriend Robin assures him that he always has a choice, he just can’t seem to navigate a clear path through the obstacles.  Will the choices he makes lead him to the finish line? Or will he just be finished?

Dead Run, one of the Orca Soundings series for reluctant teen readers, was written specifically for struggling, reluctant teen readers. But you’d never know it! Sean Rodman has worked in schools around the world and his understanding of teen readers is evident. Rodman’s succinct sentences and short, snappy paragraphs perfectly capture the fast-paced action and sense of urgency that drive the plot forward. Although flawed, Sam’s character is both convincing and likable. I found myself cheering for him right to the bitter end. Sam's plight is one most teen readers can relate to, and the book's resolution is both fair and fitting. This book has definite appeal for male readers, especially if they are into cycling.  An excellent selection for a public or school library collection.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Terri Hayes

Terri Hayes is a teacher and student, currently completing a Master of Education in Teacher-Librarianship at the University of Alberta. Terri has been a voracious reader ever since her introduction to Dick & Jane at the age of six. Luckily, the quality of books for children has improved tremendously since those days, and now, one of her primary goals is to instill that same love of reading in her students. When she’s not scouring the local library for her next great read, Terri can usually be found reading to her grandchildren or hopping a plane to some destination she’s read about in a book.