Book Review: Running by Natalia Sylvester

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Running by Natalia Sylvester.

Mariana Ruiz is a fifteen-year-old Cuban American who’s father is a Senator for the state of Florida. However, he’s now got his sights set on the White House, and as a result of his running for president, Mariana’s life is invaded by campaign managers and the press, nothing is private anymore and that bothers her a lot. As she tries to work through the invasiveness of her father’s campaign, she starts to learn that she might not know everything that her father stands for, and when she learns that his unwillingness to act on a specific bill is starting to have nasty effects not just on the environment, but people within her community. She faced with the decision whether to just ignore what is going on, or should she try and take a stand, even if it could have a negative affect on her father’s campaign?

Running is a great novel that explores the idea of teenagers starting to explore politics and activism, and learning about how they can still have a voice and take a stand, even if they can not vote yet.

Throughout the novel, we see Mariana, who loves her father and wants to stand by his side, but her feelings start to change when he starts to become a different person from the man that she knows him to be. When it seems like he is allowing the press, and his campaign manager, to invade their home and personal lives, she starts to get a little annoyed, especially since whenever she talks to him he tells her to get over herself and that she needs to think about his constituents. She tries to work through her feelings, as well as what she is being told to do by those around her. Then just as her family (and their home) is about to be featured on prime time tv, she decides to run away to a place that is safe, the home of their housekeeper (Gloria).

However, her actions have negative consequences on Gloria, especially when her personal life comes under scrutiny. And soon, Mari’s dad, and his sleazy campaign manager start to believe that Gloria and her girlfriend have filled Mari’s head with ideas, especially concerning her dad, that are causing to her to act out and question everything her dad stands for. However, nothing could be further from the truth, the only thing that they do is encourage Mari to do her own research of her father’s platform and decide for herself whether she can truly support him. Her thinking is further challenged by a fellow student who engages with her in conversation about her father, as well as discussions about the environment.

Then Mariana discovers that her dad passed up voting on a bill that allows for sewage to be dumped into the aqueduct that provides water to the community, this especially becomes an issue when people start getting sick from the water. Mariana is shocked because her father seems to always care about the environment, but she learns that his passivity on this issue has to do with the fact that this bill benefit some of his biggest campaign donors. When she tries to confront him on the issue he downplays it and tries to convince her it was a necessary evil, but that he will try to make a change. However, she realizes that she got played by her politician father and decides to join a walkout with her fellow students, even if it means that her dad will receive bad publicity just before the Florida Primaries.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I believe that this novel can be an important read for teenagers to realize that they can still have a voice, even if they are not able to vote. It stresses the importance of still knowing what is going on politically, especially since some of the same issues are the ones that they will have to deal with sooner or later. It also stresses the importance of thinking for yourself and developing your own opinions even if they are different from those of your parents – and even your peers.

The novel also explores the idea of hypocrisy, and the invasion of privacy. One of the biggest issues that Mariana has to deal with is the fact that she has always viewed her father as her hero, but she discovers that he is a hypocrite and starts to view him in a different light. Mariana comes into her own and learns to stand up for what is right, even if it means standing up against her father. It was also interesting to see her mother, who supports her husband, but also encourages Mariana to do the right thing, even if it might mean that her husband’s campaign is destroyed in the process.

Writing style wise, I enjoyed Natalia Sylvester’s writing style, my only complaint is that she jumps to scenes in the past and it sometimes took a while for me to realize we were in a scene in the past, and also when we jumped back to the future. However, that is a minor issue compared to how good this novel is. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

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