before the wind

Running Before the Wind

Running Before The Wind is a young adult novel by American writer Linda Woolverton.

Plot summary

For thirteen-year-old Kelly, running is like running away from the anger and the pain - it lets her forget, at least for a few miles a day, just how much she hurts. But when she is invited to join the junior high track team, Kelly's father dashes her hopes with a blunt "No". Kelly knows there is little she can say to change his mind. In fact, she is afraid of saying anything at all. Kelly lives in fear of her father. He could be nice for days, then lash out in frightening violence. While her mother and sister will do anything to keep the peace, Kelly refuses to pretend that nothing is wrong. Then suddenly, miracously, Kelly is freed from her father's unpredictable rage. But now she feels trapped in a life filled with anger and violence of her own.


  • "Grade 6-9 Living in fear of her father's violence during the day, Kelly's night runs become the most important thing in her life. When her father is killed in a boat accident, she is secretly glad that she no longer has to be frightened. It is the track coach who helps her understand her anger and come to terms with her father's death, and her relief is reconciled with her loss and recognition that she misses her father. Her passion for running is as intense as Bullet's in The Runner by Cynthia Voigt (Atheneum, 1985) who also ran as a salvation from turmoil, but this story is not similar otherwise nor in the same league. While Voigt's strength is in characterization, Woolverton's is in the emotional pitch. The other characters (the wimpy mother and sister) serve simply as counterpoints to Kelly's struggles. The explanation of her father having had polio as a reason for forbidding Kelly to join the track team seems insufficient, as do the explanations of frustration and a bad childhood as the cause of his violent outbursts. Yet the emotional intensity of Woolverton's narrative will hold readers as the plot, much like a paced long-distance race, drives to its finish. One caveat: the final two sentences of the novel, which state that Kelly wants her abusive father back, "no matter what", might give children the inappropriate message that putting up with an abusive parent is better than having no parent at all." School Library Journal

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