The one bit thing that surprised me about The Long Run by James Acker is that I hadn’t heard about it before. It’s a book about running, set in South Jersey — only about 12 miles from where I live. Given how much I love running, and how much I love South Jersey, I’m annoyed I didn’t buy this as soon as it came out (I found out about it via the Book ‘Em, Zach-O newsletter – thanks pal!)

The Long Run is about Sebastian Villeda and Sandro Miceli, seniors at Moorestown High School. They both do track and field, with Sebastian is captain of track; and Sandro captain of field. This is a YA romance, so of course they fall in love.

It could have just been a boy meets boy (or boy realizes he is in love with boy) story, but it goes deeper than that. Acker does a wonderful job giving us a rounded picture of these two young men. Miceli has always known he’s gay, and has plotted out when he can live his true, authentic self, something he doesn’t think he can do living in a multi-generational, Italian-American household, where he’s often an afterthought. Sebastian is more surprised by his attraction to Sandro (I’m being vague on purpose as it’s a plot point, but it’s well done), and is living in almost the opposite situation of Sandro’s. He was raised by a single mother, who married when Sebastian was young. When she died, his step-dad was his only parental figure left, and neither one of them are sure how that kind of bond works.

They both go through a lot in this book, in a typical YA novel way: they have big big feelings, especially about what’s next — with their lives, and each other. It reminded me of the agony of being a high school senior in love, and my big big feelings about would happen to that love once we went to college.

I also laughed loud enough to wake up my dog at this passage, when Sandro trash talks Wildwood in a very ramped up, bravado-ed way: “Wildwood’s boardwalk is trash, for starters, and while maybe you can argue that its beach access has an edge solely on physical location, it’s almost all metered parking, an obvious scam, and any passable restaurant is, like, ten miles away from the water. The sand is oily as hell, the roads haven’t been paved since fucking Watergate, and there’s absolutely no nightlife to speak of. ESPECIALLY compared to Atlantic City, casino capital of the East. So, yeah. Have fun spending an hour on a mildly nicer beach then spending all night in you Holiday fucking Inn.”

Heeeeeeee. Another passage I flagged, this time from Sebastian: “Jersey’s chill. South Jersey’s chill.”

Acker, you are a writer after my own heart.

Nail polish: Surf Naked by OPI.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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