Running Away For Beginners

Mark Illis

Jasper, 14, was just diagnosed with cancer. Treatment starts in a week, and his parents want him to carry on as normal. But Jasper knows that’s impossible, and his friends help organise a weekend trip to the seaside to get away from everything. It’ll be like running away for beginners, they joke.

I hadn’t expected this book to resonate with me as much as it did. My brother was also diagnosed with osteosarcoma and also decided to run away! Pretty slim chances of a book reflecting my reality but this really did.

Jasper has fond memories of his estranged Uncle Universe who lives in Robin Hoods Bay. When his friends suggest running away following his diagnosis, he hatches a plan to escape to live with his uncle. In his mind this is the solution to facing Options 1, 2 or 3. As may be expected, everything does not go to plan. Their weekend sees them avoiding the police, having a near-miss with a dodgy looking man and a caravan full of dogs. It also explores friendship, dealing with love, anger, fear and anxiety. All challenges which are faced by young people. This is a journey for all young people, not just those facing their own cancer diagnosis. It is a heartfelt, funny, exciting journey with a young person wanting some control for a brief moment at a time when all control is about to be taken away.

Published by Scholastic, 2024 (296 pages)

Reviewed by Tash Hyde