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Title: Running BarefootMy Review:
Author: Amy Harmon
Release Date: April 5th 2012
Format: Kindle Book
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When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy crashes headlong into new-comer Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young friend behind. Many years go by and Samuel returns, finding Josie in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go. Deeply romantic and poignant, Running Barefoot is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind them to their homes and families, and the love that gives them wings.
4.5 stars — Every time I start a new Amy Harmon novel, I’m always a bit worried. Why? Because her writing and her writing style tend to be a bit out of my wheelhouse, but I always end up loving her books anyways. So I’m always worried that this one will be the one that just doesn’t work for me. Not that it matters, but it’s a weird quirk of mine. Well, as usual, I had NOTHING to worry about. I LOVED this book. Like, it may in fact be my favourite book by Ms. Harmon yet.
The thing about this book (as with many of hers) is that they don’t fit any mold. There’s most certainly a strong romance component, but it’s a very odd romance, and it plays out in an odd way. And there’s definitely a coming of age component, but it’s not a YA book by any means. I would almost hesitantly put this book under Women’s Fiction, as it really explores the life of Josie Jo…but anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of that genre label (let’s not go there, it’s another weird quirk…I have a lot of them). In the end it doesn’t matter if I can’t squish it into a mold; in some ways it’s unmoldability made it the beautiful reading experience that it was.
Josie was my kind of heroine. I felt for her. My little heart felt like it could relate to pieces of her…though I doubt anyone would call me an old soul. But I felt her awkwardness, and how she felt out of place and like she didn’t belong. But she was always a perfect balance of kind and passionate. I really loved her.
And Samuel was the most intriguing hero. There was so much to him, and he could be quiet, he could be volatile. But most of all he was a poor confused young man. He grew into an intriguing adult. He made plenty of mistakes, but I really appreciated how different he was as a hero.
The shining star of this story is the friendship that develops between Josie and Samuel…particularly when she’s just 13. That part of the story had me hooked and devouring. It was just so strange but beautiful. And I appreciated how 13 year old Josie couldn’t necessarily grasp the complications with such a friendship, and how at the time she didn’t feel romantic feelings, but the bond that they forged was truly unique and so strong. It was just beautiful to watch two wayward souls find each other and get each other and…well, I’m never going to be able to do this justice. But I felt like Ms. Harmon really treated us to a unique experience. She created a situation wrought with strife and complication, but she still made me believe in their relationship…despite all the pitfalls I could see coming. And while we only read Josie’s POV, I felt like she gave both Josie and Samuel really authentic voices.
While I never had the passion for classical music that Josie and Samuel do, I grew up playing the organ, so I do have an appreciation. I loved all the little connections that were made with music and how it can affect us…I even loved that all the chapter titles were musical terms. I also loved all the conversations that Josie and Samuel had about literature. Their discussions even made me think, and they made the story that much MORE.
And finally, the reason I read this book *this* month was to fulfill a diversity reading challenge theme for Native American History Month. And unlike so many books where the POC is added for diversity, but we don’t necessarily get a glimpse of their culture, I felt like we got a real look at the Navajo culture throughout this book. And it felt authentic and respectful and…just perfect. I also appreciated how we got to see Samuel torn between two worlds as a biracial young man.
Honestly, the only reason this book isn’t a full 5 stars is that I started flagging a bit at the end…I’m not sure if the pace really slowed, or if I was tired, or if it’s just that I’m not used to this style and so my attention wavered. But that’s honestly the only piece that was less than perfect. I can’t even tell you how many scenes had my tummy filled with butterflies…and not just the romantic kind, but the…angsty? kind? I don’t know…it was just constantly making me FEEL THINGS. Good things, bad things, sad things, beautiful things. All the things. You don’t get much better than that.