Elk Lake Publishing
Published May 16, 2020
Night is Kia’s favorite time, when she freeruns to outdistance the memories of abuse she suffered as a young child. But when former reality television star Terrence Jones arrives at their school as the new head track coach, things begin to change in unpredictable ways.
Kia tries out for the team to fit in, but just as she’s gaining a new sense of normal, her abuser steps back into her life. Not only that, but being on the track team causes even more turmoil. Why does the assistant coach, Cassandra Clark, dislike Terrence Jones so much, and even more troubling, why does Coach Clark dislike her so much?
As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, Kia realizes she has to choose between running from her past or saving a child from the same sort of abuse she suffered. But will she have the courage to do so?
Set against the backdrop of the sport of freerunning, Kia must decide whether she will continue running or face her past abuser in order to save another child.
I feel like this is going to be a difficult review to write– not because the book was bad, but because I am still sorting through my feelings on it.
First, what I liked: the easy friendship between Thorn and Kiana was great. I loved the way they stuck up for each other and bonded over their shared love of freerunning. I liked that the story wasn’t about them developing a romantic relationship.
The family relationships are complicated (in a good way). Kiana’s mom isn’t making good choices, but she reads as a desperate woman who’s barely keeping her head above water. That’s no excuse for the things she does, but it makes her a complex character.
As I read, I felt the sinister nature of the relationship between Kiana and her grandfather. There are no graphic descriptions of him hurting anyone, but I had no trouble believing him capable of it. And the way he flipped things around to deflect blame from himself and used charm and fake innocence to avoid judgment or consequences was super creepy. Believable and creepy.
On the other side, the story raises a couple of issues that get left unaddressed. In one scene, Kiana’s grandfather leads a little girl from the church toward his car, claiming he has permission to take her home. The children’s director tells him no one is authorized to do this without having written consent from the parent first.
Not long after that, Kiana’s coach insists on giving her a ride home from the church because it’s dark out, and he feels it’s unsafe for her to walk home.
Kiana also discovers her grandfather lurking around her school and track meets, and immediately she feels creeped out by this. In one scene, her track coach finds Kiana and Thorn freerunning in a sketchy part of town.
In both of those sets of instances, both men do very similar things. Obviously Kiana’s history with them makes a huge difference in how she feels about this, but I wished that the story drew a more clear line on what’s safe versus unsafe behavior. I felt like, though his motives seemed to be pure, Kiana’s coach should not have crossed those lines.
I think having those two characters– the coach/hero and the creepy grandfather both committing some of the same actions is what made it stand out to me.
Overall, though, I enjoyed reading a story that followed a girl interested in freerunning and track. I think fans of THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle will find FREERUNNER to their liking.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Kiana’s mom is white and she believes her dad is black. Her grandfather sexually abused her when she was younger.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
A couple of racial slurs and references to them.
References to sexual abuse. No graphic descriptions. Reference to a couple being caught having sex (not shown).
Kiana joins a church group and learns about trusting God from her track coach.
Multiple references to sexual abuse (not graphically described). References to physical abuse and brief descriptions of a woman killed by her abuser. Reference to a group attacking a man in prison, leaving him in critical condition. A man kidnaps a girl. Someone dies falling from a building.
A woman drinks beers after work.
Note: I received a free copy of FREERUNNER in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.