Tag Archives: track and field

Review: The Long Run by James Acker

The Long Run by James Acker

The Long Run
James Acker
Inkyard Press
Published February 7, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Long Run

“A boldly authentic new voice in queer fiction.” —Abdi Nazemian, author of Stonewall Honor book Like a Love Story and The Chandler Legacies

Two track and field athletes find an unexpected but powerful love in this unapologetically blunt and unforgettably real YA debut.

Sebastian Villeda is over it. Over his rep. Over his bros. Over being “Bash the Flash,” fastest sprinter in South Jersey. His dad is gone, his mom is dead, and his stepfather is clueless. Bash has no idea what he wants out of life. Until he meets Sandro.
Sandro Miceli is too nice for his own good. The middle child in an always-growing, always-screaming Italian family, Sandro walks around on a broken foot to not bother his busy parents. All he wants is to get out and never look back.
When fate—in the form of a party that gets busted—brings these two very different boys together, neither of them could’ve predicted finding a love that they’d risk everything for…

My Review

I was excited to pick up THE LONG RUN in large part because it’s the first time I can remember a big Italian family being featured in a young adult book. I’m from a big Italian family, so I was really excited to see that portrayed on the page.

It was a little disappointing that they were kind of the bad guys in the story. Like, it was very believable, though heartbreaking, that the brash, high volume, high intensity behavior was ultimately weaponized against Sandro. It left him feeling completely bowled over and like it would never be safe to be himself. Which made sense considering how the family treated him. I did like the conversation he had with his mom late in the story and the things she said to fill in some of the reasons behind why things happened the way they did.

I also really liked Bash’s emotional journey, going from someone who couldn’t seem to get through a conversation about his feelings, to someone who was learning to do it, and trying to build his own support network.

Sandro and Bash are both notorious athletes at their school. I thought the decision to feature two athletes in a M/M romance was cool, too– again something I haven’t often seen. Early in the story, during the time that Bash is standoffish and emotionally closed, I had a harder time getting into the book. It was hard to find things about his character that I liked at that point.

But as I read, and as I watched Sandro and Bash grow, not only in their exploration of a relationship together, but pursuing their own personal growth, I felt more drawn into the story.

On the whole, I would say I enjoyed THE LONG RUN, though it didn’t scratch the “big Italian family in YA” itch for me in a satisfying way. I think fans of BEATING HEART BABY by Lio Min or OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg should check this one out.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Bash is biracial and bisexual. Sandro is gay.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently. Bash’s friend and Sandro’s family use the F-slur. Bash and Sandro talk about it at one point and use the word back and forth with each other, as though reclaiming it.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys. In more than one scene, they undress together. Some brief or vague descriptions of them having sex.

Spiritual Content
Bash adds a prayer bead to his necklace every year since his mother died. References to prayer.

Violent Content
Bash and another boy get into a fight.

Drug Content
Bash and Sandro go to a party where teens are drinking alcohol. Bash gets drunk and sick. Bash’s friend smokes pot, but Bash doesn’t join him. Bash and Sandro drink alcohol together in a couple scenes. Sandro’s mom and Bash’s stepdad both serve alcohol to them with a meal.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE LONG RUN in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Freerunner by Kathy Cassel

Kathy Cassel
Elk Lake Publishing
Published May 16, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Freerunner

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.

My Review

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.

Content Notes

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.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to sexual abuse. No graphic descriptions. Reference to a couple being caught having sex (not shown).

Spiritual Content
Kiana joins a church group and learns about trusting God from her track coach.

Violent Content
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.

Drug Content
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.