Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com
Statistics on teenage runaways are frightening. Knowing that teens are living homeless in big cities and surviving by their wits is terrifying. John Burns takes readers into the world of the teenage runaway. It is a frightening place, where survival can depend on becoming part of a group and having to trust some very scary individuals with your life.
Peter Weir's life takes a sharp turn downhill when his mother shows up at school to announce that his father just died of a heart attack. His attempts to pull his life back together are feeble. Just moving on doesn't work well for Peter.
After a meeting with his father's attorney to discuss his estate, Peter finds he has a thousand dollars in cash at his immediate disposal. The future seems clear - take it and run. He boards a bus and heads for someplace far from his absent father.
Traveling alone isn't as easy as Peter thought. Roughed up by several bullies, he loses all but two hundred dollars of his money. His remaining funds dwindle quickly. Peter is relieved to meet several other homeless teens who introduce him to Dekman. Survival seems easier as he joins their group and panhandles for Dekman in exchange for a place to sleep and food to eat.
The dark side of Dekman begins to surface, making Peter uncomfortable but still dependent for survival. His artistic talent could possibly offer him a chance to break free of the group, but he fears Dekman's threats too much to take the chance.
Afraid of Dekman, yet also afraid to call home for help, Peter's subconscious takes over. He realizes that he is able to create his own special world inside his mind. This world he calls Runnerland, and it gives him a place to escape the stress and danger of his current situation -- but it also seems to make the unstable Dekman jealous.
Peter's story is a realistic one. The deserted buildings that become his home, the creative methods he devises to beg and earn his living, and the fragile and scary trust he must have in the leader, Dekman, all come together to illustrate the dark and dangerous life of the homeless. This well-written story will make readers consider just how many of these teens are out there today, living on the edge of survival.