Runner by Carl Deuker
The weather-beaten sailboat Chance Taylor and his father call home is thirty years old and hasn’t sailed in years. One step from both homelessness and hunger, Chance worries about things other kids his age never give a thought: Where will the money come for the electricity bill, grocery bill, and moorage fees? So when a new job falls his way, Chance jumps at the opportunity, becoming a runner who picks up strange packages on a daily route and delivers them to a shady man at the marina. He knows how much he will earn; what he doesn’t know is how much he will pay.
Runner was an ingeniously plotted book. It starts off innocent enough, as you'd expect, until the sense of imminent danger creeps in and things very quickly turn deadly. At first, it's just a book about a kid who's had to grow up too fast and the relationship between him and his father. After Chance begins smuggling to make ends meet, the suspense builds until the final, epic conclusion. The story was predictable, but there are only so many ways illegal smuggling can end. Even though I expected it, my heart was racing all through the end of the book. The way Chance got tangled up in smuggling and the events after are realistic and frightening, but the resolution of the book is a bit rushed and not as realistic. For all that's beneath the danger - Chance's financial worries, his father's drinking, and their broken family - there's almost no character development. The characters are well thought-out, but Chance is the same at the beginning of the book as he is at the end. As an action story, Runner is superb, but if you're looking for a book with a little more, look elsewhere.
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