Book Review: Running on Empty by Colette Ballard

What does it feel like when you die—in those final moments? Do you feel the physical pain, or just the pain of your regrets? What does it feel like when you realize you can’t answer these questions because you’re not the victim?

You’re the killer.

River Daniels lives an ordinary life as a high school junior growing up in the confines of rural Texas until her boyfriend’s brutal attack leaves her both a murderer and a fugitive. When River’s closest girlfriends come to her aid, they make a hasty decision to not only help her, but leave their own troubled lives behind and join in her escape. The girls manage to elude police for months, but with every near-miss, River’s life spirals further out of control, until she finally hits rock bottom. Realizing she must stop endangering her friends and find evidence proving she acted in self-defense, the girls decide to make a risky move. River must face her ugly past and the one person she was protecting the night her world caved in, the guy she has loved for as long as she can remember.
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
The premise of Running on Empty was captivating to me.  Can you imagine being in River's situation?  She is attacked by her boyfriend, who attempts to rape her, and in the process of fighting him off, a terrible accident occurs.  She panics and decides to leave town, knowing that her boyfriend's family will crucify her in court.  They have a lot of influence in the town law enforcement and River knows that even though she was not at fault, she'll likely spend life behind bars for what happened.

I liked a lot of things about Running on Empty.  I liked the emphasis on friendships, both between River and her two best friends, and between River and Justice.  I liked River's family history and how her biological father comes back into her life.  River is a strong character, full of sass and intelligence.  I liked that Ballard wrote her that way.

There were a few things about this book that bothered me, though.  River is stubborn.  Very stubborn: at times I wanted to bang my head against the wall in frustration at her inability to see that she was wrong about things!  River tries to always do the right thing and protect her friends, but it would happen at the cost of her own safety.  Overall, I'd say River was pretty emotionally immature.  She did grow up a lot through the course of the book, which was great, but for most of the story she was a frustrating character.  Additionally, I felt like the conflict resolution was a little too perfect and predictable.  I would have liked a more realistic ending to the story.

Overall, I did enjoy Running on Empty.  I'd recommend it to fans of the contemporary YA genre, and I would definitely read Colette Ballard again.


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