Running Full Tilt
Publishes September 5, 2017
Review copy via publisher on NetGalley.
Like most siblings, Leo and Caleb have a complicated relationship. But Caleb’s violent outbursts literally send Leo running. When the family is forced to relocate due to Caleb’s uncontrollable behavior, Leo tries to settle into a new school, joining the cross-country team and discovering his talent for racing and endurance for distance. Things even begin to look up for Leo when he befriends Curtis, a potential state champion who teaches Leo strategy and introduces him to would-be girlfriend, Mary. But Leo’s stability is short-lived as Caleb escalates his attacks on his brother, resentful of his sport successes and new friendships.
Leo can’t keep running away from his problems. But, with a little help from Curtis and Mary, he can appreciate his worth as a brother and his own capacity for growth, both on and off the field.
Male Author, Male POV
Given the historic prevalence of male authors, it’s almost funny to say that I seek out male authors. But my reading is heavily weighted toward female authors, so I was excited to see a YA contemporary with a male POV by a male author. And while Running Full Tilt does technically have a sports focus (pretty common of male YA), it’s also about sibling relationships and the complicated reality of loving someone with autism and cognitive delay. And the sport is running (cross-country and track), which happens to be one of my passions. So I was excited to read this.
Sibling relationships are among the most fascinating in existence. Currinder does justice to the complex web of love, jealousy, fear, and embarrassment that drives these brothers.
Currinder writes from personal experience as the brother of an autistic sibling, so I feel confident saying that this story represents real feelings, although I have no personal experience with brothers or autistic siblings.
I haven’t ever run competitively or on a team, but I’ve been aggressively training for long-distance running this year. There are some common themes for most runners–running out strong emotions, enjoying runner’s high, etc. Currinder’s descriptions of runs was very relatable for me, although I’ve seen other readers complaining about the repeated descriptions of runs.
For non-runners, it may be easy to dismiss the running element of the plot as too metaphoric. Leo running away from his problems is a bit on the nose, right? Sure, it is. But I’ve had very similar experiences with running and I’ve heard similar things, even from elite runners. Literally running away from problems is pretty common.
Running Full Tilt accomplishes exactly what it sets out to accomplish, in my opinion. It’s a great window into life with an autistic sibling and a celebration of running. I recommend this book for a wide variety of readers.