by Wendelin Van Draanen


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This diary of a runaway girl and her search for a home celebrates hope, resilience, and happy endings as only Wendelin Van Draanen, the author of Flipped and other acclaimed novels, can.
Holly has run away before, but this time she actually gets away—and what at first felt like an escape soon becomes a daily struggle for survival. She is smart and resourceful, and she manages to make it across the country on her own. But how long can this go on? It’s getting harder to avoid the truth—Holly is now homeless.
Runaway is a remarkably uplifting portrait of a girl still young and stubborn and naive enough to believe there’s a better place for her in the world.
“Will grab readers from the first entry.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Holly’s lively self lingers in the way the best characters do. Runaway is certainly one of the best young adult books of the year.” —The Sacramento Bee

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307975973
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/10/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 112,330
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen was a teacher for many years before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of many beloved and award-winning books. For middle graders, she’s written Swear to Howdy and the Sammy Keyes mystery series. For teens and tweens, there’s Flipped, The Running Dream, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, and Runaway. And for younger readers, check out the Shredderman quartet and the Gecko and Sticky series. Wendelin Van Draanen lives in Central California with her husband and two sons. Find her on the Web at or on Twitter at @WendelinVanD.

Read an Excerpt


By Wendelin Van Draanen

Random House

Wendelin Van Draanen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0375835229

Chapter One

May 17th

It's cold. It's late. I'm trapped in here, trying to sleep under this sorry excuse for a blanket, and I've just got to tell you--you don't know squat. You think you know what I'm going through, you think you know how I can "cope," but you're just like everybody else: clueless. Writing. Poetry. Learning to express myself. "It'll help you turn the page, Holly. Just try it."

Well, I'm trying it, see? And is it making me feel better? NO! Giving me this journal was a totally lame thing to do. You think writing will get me out of here? You think words will make me forget about the past? Get real, Ms. Leone!

Words can't fix my life.

Words can't give me a family.

Words can't do jack.

You may be a teacher, Ms. Leone, but face it: You don't know squat.

May 19th

Oh, you really took the cake today. "Put your most embarrassing experience in the form of a cinquain poem." What did you expect me to do? Write the truth? I knew you'd read them out loud and you did! How do you spell idiot? I spell it L-E-O-N-E.

Did you like my little poem about spilling my milk in a restaurant? Stupid, I know, so give me an F, see if I care. Like I can even remember ever being in a real restaurant.

You want a cinquain poem about amost embarrassing moment that actually happened to me? Okay, here you go:


Chained outside

Shivering, huddling, sobbing

Naked in the rain


Oh, yeah. That makes me feel SO much better.

May 20th

My mom died two years ago today.

I'd been scamming food, she'd been shooting up.

I miss her.

More than I have tears to cry, I miss her.

May 20th, again

You want to know why I was crying at recess? That cat Camille is why. She called me a homeless freak. Told me I had a face only my mother could love. Normally, I would have told her to eat dirt and die, but today I just couldn't take it.

I didn't tell you because I knew you wouldn't believe me. Everyone knows she's your favorite. "Miss Leone, do you need some help?" "Miss Leone, do you want me to pass those out?" "Oh, Miss Leone, you look so pretty today!" Adopt her, why don't you?

Oh, that's right--she already has two parents.

May 20th again, again

When they moved me in with the Benders, the social worker told me that they were "very kind and very patient people." What a laugh. They're phonies, is what they are. Mrs. Bender is a heartless witch, and Mr. Bender is a total creep. He's always touching me. On the shoulder. On the hair. On the hand. He gets that same look that Mr. Fisk used to get when his wife wasn't around.

Social services won't believe me if I complain. They'll say I'm just looking for trouble. Lying. Faking. Overreacting. "Self-inflicting."

Well, I'm not going through that again. I'd rather DIE than go through that again. So tonight when Mr. Bender started massaging my shoulders, I told him, "Stop it!"

He didn't. "I'm only trying to help you unwind," he said in his snaky voice.

"Stop it!" I shouted. "Don't touch me!" And I slapped his creepy hands away.

That brought Mrs. Bender running. "What is going on in here?" she asked, and after he explained it to her, I got locked in my room. Not the room they show the social worker. That's the room they tell me I'll get when I'm a "good" girl. The room I really get is the laundry room. They give me a mat, a blanket, and a bucket to pee in.

So sweet dreams, Ms. Leone, in your feathery bed or whatever you have.

Do you really believe words are going to keep me warm and safe tonight?

May 21st, early morning

Why am I doing this? Why am I writing to you again? I'm shivering in this room, huddled under this blanket writing to you, and why? What good is it? I'm hungry, I can't sleep, I'm locked in here, and I've got to pee. I hate using the bucket, I just hate it.

Man, I've got to go. Hold on a minute.

Oh, that's better.

Maybe I can get back to sleep now.

Nope. I'm too cold.

So you want to hear how I get a drink when they trap me in here on weekends? I turn on the washer. Pretty sly, huh? I used to put my blanket in the dryer and get it roasting hot, but the dryer quit working and of course I got blamed.

I don't mind the size of this squatty little room, it's the cold that gets me. Why can't they give me a better blanket? How about a sleeping bag? Would that kill them?

Whatever. No matter how much I try, I'll never be "good" enough to sleep in the real room.

I've got to come up with a plan to get out of here.

May 21st again, lunchtime

What is it with you and poetry? It's like some crazy obsession with you. And I couldn't believe your stupid "Life is poetry" statement. Maybe your life is poetry, but mine's a pile of four-letter words. "Find the motion. Find the rhythm. Find the timbre of your life." Whose idea is all this? Yours? Did somebody teach you this stuff? How's this ever going to help me in life?

And guess what? You can forget it. I'm not doing it. Write your own stupid poem about your own poetic life.

Mine would just get me sent to the office.

May 21st again again, after school

I hate you, you know that? I hate you for making me write that poem. I hate you for making me lie about my life. But most of all I hate you for acting so sweet to me. You don't really care. I'm a job to you, like I am to everybody else. I know it, so quit pretending you care.

And you probably think you're doing a good job, but guess what? You're not. I can see right through you, so just leave me alone, would you? Forget I'm even in your class. Forget you're supposed to be trying to "help" me. And quit making me write poems!

Excerpted from Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Readers will be drawn to the gripping details of both physical and emotional landmines hidden in the ordinariness of everyday life. This is a great book to hand-sell or booktalk to young teens. . . . Van Draanen has shown great versatility in adding another dimension to her already respected body of work.”–School Library Journal

“Readers will be drawn to Holly as she shifts between her search for a safe place to live, her anger at the foster care system and her reflections on the circumstances that led up to her mother’s overdose.”–Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Runaway 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 168 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is 1 of the best books I have ever read! i am 14 and my mom got this 4 hanukkah! i luved reading about a girl my age who ran away. it really made me wanna read evry page! so far I have red it 4 times and 1 just got it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a 6th grade student in Glendale, AZ.Holly is a 6\7th grader who lost her mother to a drug obsession a few years ago. She¿s gone through many foster parents before. Her current foster parents are Mr. and Mrs. Bender. Holly is a very independent, courageous and is very realistic about certain subjects.

Holly runs away from the Benders because of their lack of love. She gets to California by using her knowledge. She survives a whole summer or more on her own. After she has been on her own for a while, she meets a girl named Sammy. Sammy is about Holly¿s age. She takes Holly to two women named Meg and Vera. Holly stays with them and is very happy.

The setting of Runaway is in California during the summer and at the beginning of the school year {this is the year the she would be in seventh grade}.

This story shows you to be grateful for what you have and take nothing for granite because there are people less fortunate than you.

I loved this story. The author is very descriptive. This story is a comedy in some ways, but still a touching, heart warming story.

My connections to this book are that, I love to journal, have a loving family and although I have never runaway, I have felt some of the feelings that Holly describes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I want a home! I want a dog! I want someplace where I belong!" Holly who is a young girl living on the streets is doing what she has to in order to stay alive. This isn't her first time running away, she gets smarter each time. She's not just an ordinary kid running away for attention, she had a bad child hood after her mother's death therefore, got taken in by people who treat her horribly. She tries to run away from her past but she is being reminded of the past everywhere she goes. This book is told in first person point of view, through Holly's notebook where she writes her thoughts and poems. Ms. Leone, who was Holly's teacher, gave Holly this journal to write in everyday. Holly hates the idea but when she runs away she finds herself writing in it all the time. She finds herself opening up and talking about things she tried so long to forget about. The notebook makes time go a lot quicker when she is bored and even helps when she is scared sleeping on the streets, she writes in it to make her feel better. Holly is on a mission. It's to go as far away from her house as possible. One of her adventures is to get to California, all she can think about is being a sea gypsy. She hops in the luggage compartment of a train so anxious to get there, that's if she don't suffocate first. She gets to California and hates it. Cement everywhere, that's not what she was looking forward to. She heads to the beach and goes through a big adventure getting there. Holy meats a girl named Sammie who introduces her to two other women, who is a mother and a daughter. After everything she has been through Holly thinks this can be it. She may just actually belong somewhere. I really like how the author Wendelin Van Draanen makes it feel like I am in Holly's shoes going thought these adventures and close deaths. The author did a great job of not giving to much information and there were no parts where I was bored. She made it as whatever events holly wants us to know about she will tell us. Its just so amazing hearing what Holly goes through how this young girl is dealing with these situations. She's not an average twelve year old, she is a very strong, smart girl. Reading what Holly writes in her journal makes her sound a lot older but the author adds stuff to the book reminding us this is a very young girl. If you're looking for a book to keep you on your feet, not want to put the book down this is it. The genre of this book is realistic fiction. It's so amazing to just imagine this girl going through the most outrageous situations and surviving through it all. It just reminds us not to give up.
brookeworm88 More than 1 year ago
Runaway was a pleasure to read. It was so in-depth about a girl and her stuggle to just survive each day. The book itself is an easy read but the story is captivating. I was so worried for the character, wondering if she would make it through the nights and wanting to be there to help her. Great story. I would recommend it to young girls everywhere especially those who think they have it tough while reading this review ONLINE lol. Makes you think twice about the little things we all take for granted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good and makes u think. Alot! But in a good way. Its a litle funny alittle sad and a little bit of everything. I would reccogmend it to anyone. U love it and u should love it too. And if u dont love it, i wil eat all of ur pie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books i've ever read. I really dont like reading but this book i really loved reading it and i read every single page
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just reading what it was about made me interested. The reason why is because my mom picked cocain over my sisters and me. And well my dad did other things. My older sister, me and my younger sister where all put on adoption and well at that point we belonged to the state.... so in other words It was some thing that i coukd relate to...
Guest More than 1 year ago
OMG! This book is truly amazing! I am speechless!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is amazing u get so hooked with the things holly goes through, also says like things that actucally happen i love this book a lot
Guest More than 1 year ago
i would recomend the book Runaway by Wendlin Van Draanen to anyone who loves sad stories with happy endings.This book is about a twelve year old girl named Holly who runs away one day from her foster home. She runs away because her foster parents are mistreating her and abusing her. this is the story of her journey of being a homeless person, or a 'sea gypsy' as she likes to call her self. as she travels from city to city she has to survive the cold and learn the hardships of living on the streets. she meets many people who are nice and try to help her and many people who do the opposite. you get to see into Holly's heart and through her eyes as she goes on this journey with only her heart and a journal. all of her thoughts are recorded so you always know what she is thinking and how she sees the situation. her story is so sad and so heartwarming it will appeal to anyone, children and adults alike.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much, i just can never describe it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book i could not put it down!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a book full of sadness, truth, and tons of other things. Holly is a 12 yr old girl who ran away from her horrible foster parents. The story is done like a journal and its really sweet, sad, and many things inbetween. You are going to love this book. And in snother of Wendelin Van Draanen's books, she talks a little about Holly's story. The book is Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay, so is there slight romance in this book?
NFSHumanitiesKid More than 1 year ago
Runaway Kimberly Muth In Wendelin Van Draanen's book Runaway Holly a 12 year old girl runs away from her old life. A child of cruel foster parents, the idea of running away to the city of Angels will be great. On her own the struggle for survival begins in this heart wrenching, bittersweet book. Everybody wants a home with comfort and people who love you, but not everyone has that. Holly is not just running away from her old life she is running away from her mother. I think running away for Holly is trying to forget her mother. Accepting the fact that "my mother loved heroin more than she loved me" is hard. This book is great for all kinds of readers; it keeps readers interested. I think running away can happen but Holly keeps getting lucky like she did not get found when she stowed away on a bus and I think that could not happen. The way Wendelin Van Draanen writes I can image the story and plot. Runaway makes readers think that family is important, maybe as important as anything.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was one of the greatest ones that i've read! (and ive read quite alot of books for a 14 year old ) if i could've i wouldnt have put it down even for a second! ( but theres school and stuff )I guess i really liked it so much also because im going/ have gone through alot in my life and I, like holly, write stuff in my journal and love it. but if ANYONE has the chance to read it, you should!
MrFClass on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's about this one girl her mother died. Now she lives with her aunt.Shes having trouble in life she writes in her journal about her feelings. Whenever she gets in trouble in school the teacher sends her into a laundry room for a couple of hours with a cold blanket, a pillow and a bucket to pee in. If shes thirsty she will open the washer machine then drink the water.
JRlibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Holly Janquell, a 12 year old, runs away from her fifth foster home in two years, but this time she gets away cleanly and she doesn't come back! She soon finds out that life on the streets is difficult, but she's determined, resilient, and intelligent. She chronicles her adventures by writing in a journal given to her by her English teacher. Her mom died of a heroin overdose and Holly has no where to go, but is determined to get to California to the coast. This book actually ends on a hopeful note, and Holly is rescued by a peer, although she doesn't recognize the resuce at first.
salinarose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book made me laugh, cry and scream. Wonderfully written, I just couldn't seem to put the book down and leave Holly by herself. This book was heartwarming, and the poetry added to it. Written as an unlikely journal beginning as something given from an English teacher, this book eventually turns into Holly's one most prized possession, as she goes deep within herself as she struggles homeless among the streets to find a place to just BE.
DrApple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Holly , an orphaned 12-year-old, runs away from her abusive foster home and heads West, where she believes she'll be warm. Through amazing resourcefullness and tenacity, Holly reaches Los Angeles. Her months of being homeless and alone teach her lesseons about the world and herself. Written as a journal, Runaway gives a real picture of what it is to be homeless in America.
justablondemoment on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Holly can't take the abuse anymore from her current foster family and at the tender age of twelve decides to runaway. This is her story told in journal fashion. Although this is a fictional book, I have listed it in my memoirs collection. The sad thing is that somewhere out there it IS a childs real life or some version of. My heart went out to Holly and I wanted to reach thru the pages of this fictional world, grab her into the real world and smother her with love. Author did a fantastic job of putting you right into the story. It's a young adult book with an adult punch. Recommend!!
Carolyn7727 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. Realistic and poetic. One of the few books about running away--- if it doesn't get the New-Berry award I don't know what will.
mrsburger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Positive book for survival and hope, as well as reading and writing
isadrone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen is the diary of a smart, needfully wary, 12-year-old homeless girl. Holly's life began to fall apart when her father died, but things really go to hell when her increasingly desperate mother turns to street drugs for comfort. Holly ends up in foster care and with her "bad attitude" working against her, she ends up in the dregs of the United States social care system.A tragic story, right? Well, yes, but Van Draanen gives Holly her own agency, furthered by the decision to tell the story in journal form. Living on the street is quite realistically portrayed, which means Holly has to work at her survival. She's a smart kid, but not all her choices are good ones. During the course of this quick read, our heroine grows up quite a bit, guided by her own words and retrospection far more than by the lessons of adults. (Though, it was a teacher who cared that gave Holly her journal book in the first place.) My only strong criticism of Runaway is the ending is too nicely-wrapped-up for a book that, for the most part, tells it how it is. Still, I would recommend this book to both teens and adults.
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Holly has had a rough life. She's labeled a troublemaker, but that's no excuse for the treatment she's gotten from a lot of adults and other people in her life. She decides she'd be better off on her own and she runs away. This book, all told in diary entries, is Holly's story of trying to make it in the world on her own as a young teen with no money and no one in the world to take care of her. It depressed and fascinated me. I had a hard time putting it down. I read the afterward and saw that the Sammy is none other than Sammy Keys, a character that I've liked a lot from Van Draanen's series.