A Road Worth Traveling

 

I hadn’t realized the superpower I would want most when I set out on my first run would be invisibility.

As a children’s book editor who loves his running, I had long wanted to work on a book for teens that captures the transformative power of our sport. My idea was simple: a novel about a teenage girl who takes up running and finds that it changes her life.

I had the idea but I needed the author. Enter Rachel Toor, who turned out to be a dream writer for the project.

At the time Rachel was a columnist for Running Times, and each issue showed she had what it takes not just to write about running in fresh and funny ways month to month, but also to undertake ultramarathons and ride-and-tie races and other crazy adventures. The fact that she also taught college creative writing and ran a side business helping desperate high-schoolers work on their college apps made her seem all the more of a natural for writing a story for young people. I was further convinced after reading her funny, whip-smart essay collection Personal Record. So I got in touch with her to see if she might be interested in trying her hand at a new kind of adventure.

Rachel had never written fiction before, but it was like my out-of-the-blue email gave her permission to try. I told her my idea and boy did she run with it. On the Road to Find Out, her debut novel, came together with astonishing speed and finesse. The novel is everything I’d hoped and much, much more.

It’s about running, but it’s also about the full contact sport of applying to college and the head injuries that can result from college rejection. Sixteen-year-old Alice Davis has been rejected, big time. Now all she wants is to stay at home reading books in the company of her pet rat, Walter, and hang out with her BFF Jenny. When Alice makes an uncharacteristic New Year’s resolution to start running, it’s because she thinks it will help to whittle down the chubbiness of her thighs. What she doesn’t realize is the many unexpected gifts running will bring—including helping her surmount real loss when it comes.

Rachel makes Alice extraordinarily fun to listen to (Alice strikes me as a latter day YA Bridget Jones) but she is also an ordinary kid in a lot of ways which I think helps make her story all the more inspiring.

But don’t just take the book’s editor’s word. Here are quotes from a couple guys who know their way around a running book:

“Rachel Toor gets it about running; this is the book I’d like my daughters to read, and I suspect a lot of young people would like their parents to read. Rachel can write like hell–she’s got the firepower and understands how the simple act of becoming a runner changes lives for the better.” ―Bill Rodgers, four-time winner of the Boston and NYC marathons, author of Marathon Man: My 26.2-Mile Journey from Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World

“Rachel Toor has never been afraid of blazing her own trail, and in On the Road to Find Out she does just that. Fresh and imaginative, it hooked me from the first page. Readers of any age, runner or not, are sure to find this book both inspiring and endearing.” ―Dean Karnazes, endurance athlete and New York Times bestselling author