Thursday, May 22, 2014
by David Carroll
Scholastic Canada, 2013. 192 pgs. Fiction
Ultra came seemingly out of nowhere to take the Cybils' award for best middle grade fiction this year. Actually, it came from Canada and is difficult to find in the United States, but it is worth the effort. Quinn is a runner, but not just any kind of runner. His unusually large heart and his body's "inefficiency" at making lactic acid allow him to run much longer than others without tiring, somethine he discovered while running with his father, a seasoned runner whom he left in the dust. Now he is running an ultramarathon--a hundred mile race that must be completed in 24 hours. For some reason his father is no longer with the family, so his mother, his little brother Ollie, and his best friend Kneecap see him off at the starting line. Framed with a television interview that takes place after the race, Quinn's story takes him from start to finish through bear scares, blistered feet, friendship from unlikely sources, and betrayal from others. After many miles he begins to hallucinate and is joined by his father who may be real, or not. Quinn's journey is not just a physical one as he comes to terms with a great sorrow in his family's life, with his own fears and expectations, and with his need to prove himself to himself. Best suited for sixth grade on up, Ultra is a stirring story of triumph against long odds. Highly recommended for reluctant tween readers.