Running Full Tilt

Reviewed by Melanie on September 5, 2017


After a few incidents force Leo’s family to move to a new neighborhood, and Leo discovers running. Leo’s story doesn’t belong to him alone. Caleb and Leo are brothers, complete opposites but still connected. Caleb, two years older, and on the spectrum, “among other things,” looks up to Leo and tries to compare himself to Leo’s achievements. Leo, without realizing it, looks up to Caleb too.

Leo begins running when Caleb becomes physically abusive, never knowing what will set him off, Leo keeps his running shoes near the door, and takes off anytime Caleb comes after him. This leads Leo to joining the Cross Country track team at his new school, and helps Leo, and Caleb, to cope with things they didn’t know were bothering them.

The way Running Full Tilt is written is easy to read, and quick to move through. While I tend to read quickly, I felt like this book blew past, much like Leo in his races. The story never falls into a lull and it’s easy to get caught up in “just one more chapter.” I wasn’t expecting the end of the book, and thought that things would end differently for Leo and his family. That being said, I think that I was hoping for a traditional happy ending, and while it ends on a high note, the journey there will feel like a roller coaster.

Leo and Caleb are my favorite characters, as they should be since they are the main characters of the book. I wish that there was more information about Caleb, being on the spectrum, and then some, is very vague and made it seem like his issues weren’t well researched, and just thrown into a lump category with what seemed to be a lot of side effects.

Leo is pretty well developed, though instead of being honest about Caleb’s fighting, Leo sweeps it under the rug. I feel like if Leo had been honest perhaps Caleb could have received the medical attention he needed.

Leo’s parents come off as selfish and not realizing what’s actually happening in their house. While Leo’s dad did try to make a point when Caleb left visible marks on Leo, the rest of his behavior was ignored.

Overall, it’s a great story, with a dysfunctional family, and a high speed ending. I’m not a sports person, and while a lot of the story focuses on running, it isn’t the entire story, and doesn’t detract from the rest of the book, or Leo’s journey throughout.

Running Full Tilt Book Cover Running Full Tilt
Michael Currinder
Young Adult, Sports and Games, Sports, Realistic Fiction
Charlesbridge Teen
September 5, 2017

A debut novel that sensitively and memorably depicts a teen runner's relationship with his autistic older brother.

Like most siblings, Leo and Caleb have a complicated relationship. But Caleb's violent outbursts literally send Leo running. When the family is forced to relocate due to Caleb's uncontrollable behavior, Leo tries to settle into a new school, joining the cross-country team and discovering his talent for racing and endurance for distance. Things even begin to look up for Leo when he befriends Curtis, a potential state champion who teaches Leo strategy and introduces him to would-be girlfriend, Mary. But Leo's stability is short-lived as Caleb escalates his attacks on his brother, resentful of his sport successes and new friendships.

Leo can't keep running away from his problems. But, with a little help from Curtis and Mary, he can appreciate his worth as a brother and his own capacity for growth, both on and off the field.

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