Toronto Book Review

23

RUNNING MATES BY EMILY LOCKER

In the debut novel set in Edgartown, North Carolina, a tale unfolds of love blooming amidst a backdrop of political discord. The town itself is sharply divided between the liberal Eastside and the conservative Northside. Annabelle Morningstar, raised by her progressive mothers, epitomizes the ethos of the Eastside. With her Caucasian heritage, Annabelle embodies her neighborhood’s values as an active member of the Liberal Liaisons committee. She adheres to a vegan diet and aspires to attend an Ivy League university. However, when her academic performance threatens these aspirations, she redirects her focus to cross-country running, joining a weekly conditioning club aimed at securing college athletic scholarships. Spearheaded by Gabe Delgado, a quintessential Northside resident and the son of a Cuban American Republican senator, the program introduces Annabelle to a different world.

As Annabelle becomes increasingly entangled with Gabe, her staunch beliefs begin to waver, leading to a clash of ideologies as she attempts to bridge the gap between their contrasting backgrounds, often with disastrous consequences. Concurrently, a student-led boycott erupts at Annabelle’s beloved independent bookstore due to allegations of suppressing employee unionization efforts. Amidst the turmoil, Annabelle is compelled to confront uncomfortable truths, paralleling the romantic narratives she adores in her beloved novels.

While the author’s exploration of ideological differences is commendable, the portrayal of U.S. politics lacks depth, relying heavily on caricatures that detract from the narrative’s authenticity, resembling more a satire without the intended wit. Additionally, the subplot involving the bookstore conflict loses momentum in the latter part of the story, leaving loose ends unresolved. However, the heartwarming romance between Annabelle and Gabe remains the novel’s highlight, offering a charming portrayal of young love that resonates with readers.

Ultimately, while the romance is captivating, readers may find the political commentary lacking depth.

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