As a runner and a reader it goes without saying that I love books about running. I relish in stumbling over those passages that describe my exact feelings in the words I could never find. I feel drawn intimately to the characters and their lives, attached by a common passion. So when I discovered the audiobook Finishing Kick by Paul Duffau I knew I had found the perfect long run companion. Bonus points that it is self published, because I love a rebel.
Finishing Kick is the YA story of Callie, a high school senior and unexpected captain of her school’s cross country team. Accepting this role Callie must not only learn to negotiate the growing pains of entering adulthood, but she must also take on the drama and challenges of her team mates as well. With that she has to juggle her growing feelings for Mark, a tech geek and her co-captain. To add to all the pressure the team is facing it’s last chance of getting on the podium at state finals, but that requires beating Fairchild Academy, the meanest and fastest cross country team in the region.
Set in the Pacific Northwest the book is the perfect runner haven. Fictional books centered on girls cross country teams are few and far between, so I was really rooting for this book to succeed. And in some aspects it did. The rhythm of the cross country season made me recall my own years running cross country and track in school (Go Hornets!) and Duffau artfully sums up the pain and pressure meets, as well as the completed relationships that arise from being part of a team.
That being said, there were elements of the story that just seemed to be there for padding. Some of the side stories while interesting in their own way, didn’t really have any bearing on the story or development of the characters. A hobo makes an appearance for a brief moment, as well as a senior prank Mark does that spirals out of control.
Also the characters seemed somewhat stereotypical and two dimensional: all the familiar tropes are there with the two feuding team mates, the clueless boy, the meddling little sister, and the identical twins who seem to be two parts of one person. Completing the roster is the old and wise coach, and the loving, stable parents.
Overall I gave the book 3/5 stars for it’s runner friendly theme and artful descriptions of the sport, but the literary elements could certainly use work. It’s a nice light read and the perfect long run companion if you’re looking for some distraction.