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Runnerland Paperback – Mar 1 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Raincoast Books; 1 edition (March 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1551929570
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551929576
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,246,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

On a “nothing special” day fourteen-year-old ninth grader Peter Weir gets called to the principal’s office. Peter, the protagonist of Vancouver author John Burns’s debut novel, has no way of knowing he’s about to experience “the worst day of his life”; three days later his dad is buried. For Peter “it was all too much. Nobody understood. Not his mom. Not his best friend, Nobody.” And there’s more adversity to come. It arrives on another “nothing special” day when Peter accidentally finds a legal document in his dad’s desk that brings his life crashing down and turns him into a runaway bus-riding clear across Canada to the west coast. With a “farm-town granny” beside him, a trio of bullies behind him, and a pocket full of bad luck, he manages to get mugged at a bus stop and to lose most of the one thousand dollars his dad had left for him, “For nobody but Peter. For his own use.”
Alone, almost penniless, smarting from his dad’s sudden death, and devastated by the news in the document he found at home, Peter sets out to keep body and soul together, the one by learning to panhandle, the other by learning to stay solitary, trusting only his intuition, and a secret white space to which he teaches himself to retreat. Peter’s ‘schooling’, also exposes the complex culture of homeless street kids, with their love of public spaces, tattoos, hacky sack, dogs, and the flags and badges on their jackets. There is the addiction to drugs and alcohol and their craving to be cared for, even if only by predators like the emotionally unstable Dekman, a modern-day Fagin who rules their local squat, assigns the best downtown begging sites, and doles out pittances as allowance for food and tokes and hits for mind-numbing escape.
Wrestling with his own coming-of-age demons, Peter cuts off his contacts with his mom and friends back home to take on a new identity with the Dekman-sanctioned street name “Runner”. He sleeps on the street, in a cave near the zoo, and on the beach before landing in the squat where he does murals and paintings on cardboard he has stolen. He consorts with the likes of “Hamburger Face” Spike, a whirling dervish of a girl named Cat, a kid named Thumper, and gang members in their street uniforms of “jeans, hoodies, elaborate jackets, Doc Martens, all black, plus chains and spikes and piercings.” On the street he befriends Preacher Sal, the disturbed itinerant who trundles about with a grocery cart full of belongings and his lungs full of doomsday warnings.
As Runner, Peter finds his own West Coast lotus land of whiteouts and dream visions, where he feels free, safe, and alone, and can call out “to all the tinkling flowers, to the stream, to the ringing bluebells: ‘I name this world . . . Runnerland!’” But it’s also a world that Dekman wants into, and one where Runner has a premonition of a real life fiery catastrophe that comes true. For Runner, the fire affords an escape from Dekman even as he realises that “his time in Runnerland was over [and] now he had to get by without it.” But he still has reconciliations to make at home and the fallout from a legal document to resolve. Perhaps in a sequel.
Told with insight, empathy, talent and skill, Runnerland is an intriguing story about kids, forced to take graduate courses from the school of hard knocks. Every word is worth reading.
M. Wayne Cunningham (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada

About the Author

John Burns (Vancouver, British Columbia) is a well-known journalist and writer. He is the managing editor and the books columnist for Vancouver's Georgia Straight and was a finalist for the Western Magazine Awards (2002 and 2005) and National Magazine Awards (2004). Burns is also a regular contributor and event host for CBC radio and CBC-related events such as CBC Radio Studio One Book Club. He co-authored Urban Picnic, a book of recipes.

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Statistics on teenage runaways are frightening. Knowing that teens are living homeless in big cities and surviving by their wits is terrifying. John Burns takes readers into the world of the teenage runaway. It is a frightening place, where survival can depend on becoming part of a group and having to trust some very scary individuals with your life.

Peter Weir's life takes a sharp turn downhill when his mother shows up at school to announce that his father just died of a heart attack. His attempts to pull his life back together are feeble. Just moving on doesn't work well for Peter.

After a meeting with his father's attorney to discuss his estate, Peter finds he has a thousand dollars in cash at his immediate disposal. The future seems clear - take it and run. He boards a bus and heads for someplace far from his absent father.

Traveling alone isn't as easy as Peter thought. Roughed up by several bullies, he loses all but two hundred dollars of his money. His remaining funds dwindle quickly. Peter is relieved to meet several other homeless teens who introduce him to Dekman. Survival seems easier as he joins their group and panhandles for Dekman in exchange for a place to sleep and food to eat.

The dark side of Dekman begins to surface, making Peter uncomfortable but still dependent for survival. His artistic talent could possibly offer him a chance to break free of the group, but he fears Dekman's threats too much to take the chance.

Afraid of Dekman, yet also afraid to call home for help, Peter's subconscious takes over. He realizes that he is able to create his own special world inside his mind.
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By SoMisguided.com on June 19 2007
Runnerland is a well-written book. I found Peter's character believable and his struggles to figure out life pretty well formed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Great Read May 31 2007
By L. Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
I really enjoyed this book. It's a convincing story of a young teenager, Peter, who receives the bombshell news that he's adopted upon the death of his father. Hurt, confused, and despondent, he runs away from home to find his own way and make sense of everything.

Peter's impulsive and somewhat naïve character comes across as completely authentic. Author John Burns has really captured those early teenage years and all the confusion and desperation (and exploration) they contain. There are also many very nice touches illustrating that no-man's land between childhood and being a grown-up.

Once on the streets, Peter is forced to deal with the hard realities of survival. Not all that successful getting by on his own, he falls in with a group of street kids and their Fagin-like leader. As life becomes more harsh, Peter begins to periodically retreat into a fantasy world which he calls Runnerland. It starts out as an idyllic place, but as Peter's day-to-day life becomes more difficult the landscape becomes more ominous. Fantasy and reality begin to close in on each other until Peter is forced to face down all his demons, both real and imagined.

While aimed at young adults, it's a great read for anyone above the age of twelve. The book reads true without being overly sentimental, and it treats the subject matter with the respect and gravity it deserves. The themes explored cross generational boundaries, and almost everyone will recognize Peter's search for his place in the world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Courtesy of Teens Read Too Sept. 25 2007
By TeensReadToo - Published on Amazon.com
Statistics on teenage runaways are frightening. Knowing that teens are living homeless in big cities and surviving by their wits is terrifying. John Burns takes readers into the world of the teenage runaway. It is a frightening place, where survival can depend on becoming part of a group and having to trust some very scary individuals with your life.

Peter Weir's life takes a sharp turn downhill when his mother shows up at school to announce that his father just died of a heart attack. His attempts to pull his life back together are feeble. Just moving on doesn't work well for Peter.

After a meeting with his father's attorney to discuss his estate, Peter finds he has a thousand dollars in cash at his immediate disposal. The future seems clear - take it and run. He boards a bus and heads for someplace far from his absent father.

Traveling alone isn't as easy as Peter thought. Roughed up by several bullies, he loses all but two hundred dollars of his money. His remaining funds dwindle quickly. Peter is relieved to meet several other homeless teens who introduce him to Dekman. Survival seems easier as he joins their group and panhandles for Dekman in exchange for a place to sleep and food to eat.

The dark side of Dekman begins to surface, making Peter uncomfortable but still dependent for survival. His artistic talent could possibly offer him a chance to break free of the group, but he fears Dekman's threats too much to take the chance.

Afraid of Dekman, yet also afraid to call home for help, Peter's subconscious takes over. He realizes that he is able to create his own special world inside his mind. This world he calls Runnerland, and it gives him a place to escape the stress and danger of his current situation -- but it also seems to make the unstable Dekman jealous.

Peter's story is a realistic one. The deserted buildings that become his home, the creative methods he devises to beg and earn his living, and the fragile and scary trust he must have in the leader, Dekman, all come together to illustrate the dark and dangerous life of the homeless. This well-written story will make readers consider just how many of these teens are out there today, living on the edge of survival.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Runnerland by John Burns Feb. 23 2008
By James F. Booth - Published on Amazon.com
Peter's life has been going pretty well- he's got his family, friends, and school. Then, one day, he gets called into the principal's office where he learns that his dad died earlier that morning after he'd gone off to school. A few days later, while looking through his dad's desk drawers, he comes across an envelope that will change Peter's life forever, sending him on an unforgettable adventure, one that may end up keeping him from home...

I had a similar reaction to this book like I did with X In Flight. I went in thinking it would be about one thing, and being a tad disappointed while still being compelled to read the story. The book summary mentioned Peter discovering a truth that was hidden from him for too long, and that kind of language gave me a completely different idea to what actually happened. Despite this misinterpretation, like X In Flight, I still enjoyed the book a lot. Told very compellingly with vivid details and a stark realism, this is one book I found absolutely hard to put down until the very end. It's very suspenseful throughout and the plot twists come out of nowhere and keep the pages turning.


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