Running by S. Bryce


Reviewed by Douglas Cobb

Running by S. Bryce is an intense, page-turning novel set in 1983 about a teenage girl, Kate, 16, who finds herself on the streets with her younger brother, Tosh, 8, and six-year-old sister, Ellie, after her mother abandons them. She and her siblings are taken in by a shady alcoholic man named Mannis and they live in a drafty, derelict “bungalow” that had been a warehouse or factory at one time. Their future outlook is far from being safe and secure, and Kate, Tosh, and Ellie live in fear from many dangers, like a mysterious person they know as the “woodcutter.”

Life is hard for Kate, Tosh and Ellie in the small town of Medswell. She relates in Running that, when they first arrived at the bungalow, Mannis wrenched the gold-plated chain Kate had about her neck. He had told them they could just stay a “couple of nights” adding “You’re not my responsibility.”

Though this is mentioned in the fourth chapter, called The Woodcutter, not everything in the novel is related in chronological order. They moved in during the summer, but it is October at he start of Running, and the nights are cold. Kate and her brother and sister also live in the bungalow with a teen boy, Saul, who tries to help look after them, but they get very little food to eat, basically a little bit of soup now and then.

Kate, Tosh, and Ellie used to live Erin Town. While Tosh and Ellie were spoiled by their father, Kate was largely left ignored, as he was not her natural birth father. Kate’s mother did not even know who her father really was. Kate had the responsibility of looking after her brother and sister, which she continues to do, at the bungalow in Medswell.

At the start of Running, in the very first chapter, Kate’s sister, Ellie, has died. Mannis digs a grave for her. Ellie could no longer take the cold and appears to have died due to both being cold and malnourished. Mannis does not want the authorities involved in anything that goes on at the bungalow, so he decides to bury her.

Kate had tried to get Mannis to help her get Ellie to the hospital, but he would not do it, probably because he both did not want the responsibility and it was forty miles away, and he did not want any authority figures finding out he was harboring children at the bungalow. Kate told herself that she would walk the 40 miles, but she did not try. As she says “Anyone of us could have gone for help. If we had wanted to…only…none of us really want to leave the bungalow.”

That is just the start of Running. Kate and Tosh face other dangers, like from people Mannis takes in on a temporary basis. Most of them just get drunk and pass out, like Mannis; but, some have other things on their minds, like a man called Rick, who Kate describes as towering over her “like a wolf over a haunch of meat.” She continues on: “I see malice in those blue eyes. I see danger.”

Saul has already told her and Tosh that he has seen a gun in Rick’s jacket. Rick wants Mannis to introduce him to Kate. Mannis does, but even he knows not to let Rick, who Kate comes to call the “Wolf,” have anything to do with her. Mannis tells Rick “you don’t touch her. You got that? She’s just a kid.”

In Running, Kate and Tosh grow somewhat accustomed to their squalid existence, but Kate begins to ask herself if she should stop running away and ask someone for help, if she should work up the courage and let others know about her story. She even thinks about the possibility of asking the woodcutter for his help, despite the potential risk to the relative security she has found at the bungalow.

Running by S. Bryce will cause readers to keep on reading until the late hours of the night to find out what happens next. It is a haunting Young Adult novel, with touches of the supernatural winding through it. Highly recommended; it is a novel that will leave readers wanting to read more from the pen of the talented author, S. Bryce.

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Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255

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