What You Need to Know:|
• Thirteen-year-old Quinn attempts to run an ultra-marathon in the Canadian wilderness.
• At the time this review was written, Ultra was only available on Amazon Canada.
• Most of the story is told in the first-person, but it is also revealed through segments of a post-race TV interview.
• The narrative shifts from the race, to the interview, to Quinn's memories.
• There is an underlying message about war.
• Ultra is not just for runners! There is much more to the story than the race itself.
• To learn more about David Carroll, check out his website, writerunrepeat.com.
• Ultra is David Carroll's first novel. It was nominated for the Ontario Library Association's, Silver Birch Award.
"…when I run, my brain quiets down. The longer I run, the quieter it gets."
At the age of 13, Quinn Scheurmann, has done something that most adults have never done. He's run an ultra-marathon, a 100 mile race, also known as the Shin-Kicker. My first thought was, why would anyone want to do such a thing! Well, Quinn explains in a post-race interview with television personality Sydney Watson, "All kids like to run." Sydney responds, "The difference is, most kids run for 10 or 15 minutes. Not for 24 hours straight, like you." Right from the start, it seems clear that there is more to this story than the simple pleasure of going for a run. So, what compelled Quinn to undertake such a courageous journey?
It's hard to say at first, but as the story unfolds, Quinn reveals more about himself through his interview, his recollection of the race and his other memories. We learn that Quinn started running at age 8, when he went for his first run with his dad. Soon after that, he discovered that he has what he calls, superpowers, meaning that his heart is 20% bigger than other kids and his body doesn't produce as much lactic acid. It also becomes clear that, up until this race, his dad played a huge part in his love of running.
He told Quinn, "If you want to run an ultra-marathon, you have to be ultra tough, ultra fast and ultra determined." Quinn didn't feel like he was any of those things, but he powered on, in part because, although his dad wasn't there, his presence was unmistakable. It was unclear where his father actually was, but his advice, encouragement and wisdom filled Quinn's thoughts throughout the race. His words echoed in almost every step that Quinn took.
Without his father on the trail, Quinn had to be self-sufficient, managing his supplies, his food/liquid intake, and his physical condition, but he did rely on the help of a few others along the way. He benefitted from the jokes his little brother told him, the kindness of other runners, his mother's understanding, and the compassion of his best friend, Kneecap. Each character was well-developed, interesting, memorable, and realistic down to their flaws. Regardless of how briefly their relationships were mentioned, they felt meaningful and helped to shed some light on the story.
Ultra is a fast-paced, multi-layered novel that leaves readers feeling like they've completed the journey alongside Quinn. It's easy to relate to Quinn's physical and emotional pain, and it's impossible not to root for him. The race details are fascinating, from the hallucinations to the threat of bears, and the suspense builds effectively with foreshadowing and other clues. His determination to cross the finish line and his battle with his personal demons are both compelling and inspirational.
2013, 192 pages
Books for Boys, Determination, Family Life, Friendship, Identity, Illness/Death, War
• Why does this ultra-marathon mean so much to Quinn?
• Did his mom do the right thing, letting him run the race?
• What predictions did you make about Quinn's dad?
• Describe Quinn's relationship with Kneecap?
• How does Quinn's little brother, Ollie, inspire him?
• How do the other runners impact Quinn's experience? Which of them did you like the best?
• What is the meaning of the wind and the whale that appear in Quinn's hallucinations?
• Why would someone cheat in an ultra-marathon?
• How important are Quinn's superpowers in helping him to complete the race?
• Would you want to run an ultra-marathon? How do you think you'd do?
• Why did Quinn tell Kneecap the joke at the dance, and why would his dad have shared it with him in the first place?
• Where do you see conflict in this story?
• How does the story impact your opinions on war?
• How does running help Quinn to cope with his problems?
• What types of things, like running, help you to deal with difficult moments in your life?
This recommendation was written by:
Unfortunately, at the time that this review was written, Ultra was not available through IndieBound.