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A Heart in a Body in the World
Table of Contents
About The Book
“This is one for the ages.” —Gayle Forman, author of the #1 bestseller If I Stay
“A book everyone should read right now.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A vital and heartbreaking story that brings together the #MeToo movement, the effects of gun violence, and the struggle of building oneself up again after crisis.” —Elle
“Equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful.” —BookPage
A Printz Honor Book
Each step in Annabelle’s 2,700-mile cross-country run brings her closer to facing a trauma from her past in National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti’s novel about the heart, all the ways it breaks, and its journey to healing. Because sometimes against our will, against all odds, we go forward.
Annabelle’s life wasn’t perfect, but it was full—full of friends, family, love. And a boy…whose attention Annabelle found flattering and unsettling all at once.
Until that attention intensified.
Annabelle is running. Running from the pain and the tragedy from the past year. With only Grandpa Ed and the journal she fills with words she can’t speak out loud, Annabelle runs from Seattle to Washington, DC and toward a destination she doesn’t understand but is determined to reach. With every beat of her heart, every stride of her feet, Annabelle steps closer to healing—and the strength she discovers within herself to let love and hope back into her life.
Annabelle’s journey is the ultimate testament to the human heart, and how it goes on after being broken.
Annabelle Agnelli is trying to hold it together in the parking lot of Dick’s Drive-In. After what just happened, she’s stunned. Frozen. And then—imagine it—Annabelle’s wrecked self suddenly takes off like a lightning bolt. She’s clutching the white bag, which has the unfortunate word, Dick’s, stamped across it in orange. Her burger is still warm. She’s holding the Coke, too, which sloshes like a stormy sea as she tries to outrun the bad visions of the recent past. French fries spring loose in the bag, and it shakes around like a maraca.
Of course she’s heard that saying—A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Coach Kwan has a poster of it in his office. It shows the silhouette of a girl at sunset, running up a steep mountain path, and it’s all clouds parting and God rays shining down and purple mountain majesties. There is no panic and dropped napkins and hair flying. That poster does not look like this.
Where is she going? No idea.
Why is she going? Well, sometimes you just snap. Snapping is easy when you’re already brittle from the worst possible thing happening. It is easy when you’re broken and guilty and scared. You snap just like that. Like the snap has been waiting around for the right moment.
So, now, Annabelle Agnelli is no longer trying to hold it together in the Dick’s Drive-In parking lot. She’s lost it. Utterly lost it. She’s ditched her car entirely, and she’s jogging down the sidewalk, fast, at a really good clip. Coach Kwan would be proud. She’s getting sweaty and her mind is swirling, and it’s all a little unhinged for the straight-A student that she is. She is a good and nice person who keeps things together, but that has been a big job, an enormous job, a job that’s way, way too big for her lately.
It gets worse. Of course, this is what often happens: Things get worse and worse still. A spiral follows gravity downward. She’s been running for who knows how long, and it starts to get dark. It’s metaphor-darkness, but it’s also just the truth. Night falls. Big clouds cross the sky, threatening rain. So many things are falling—night, rain, the last of the stuff holding Annabelle Agnelli together.
She’s halfway down Seattle’s busy thoroughfare of Broadway. Then she turns down Cherry, and before she knows it, Annabelle is on the path that hugs Lake Washington. It’s March, which means that the sun goes down around five, five thirty. She has no idea what time it is, though. People with hunched shoulders and their jacket hoods up are walking their dogs. Little dogs and big dogs are pulled and yanked—there’s no time for luxurious sniffing with the sky that black. There’s a bicyclist or two or twenty, speeding home after work, their wheels zizzing by her. Backpacks are slung over their shoulders. Their tight, shiny bike pants shoot past, meteor streaks of luminescent yellow. Streetlights plink on.
She keeps running. There’s a little pit-pat of rain, nothing major. The burger bag is gone (in a trash can, she hopes, though she can’t say for sure), but Annabelle still has the Coke, and her purse bangs against her side. She stopped by Dick’s after hanging out with Zach Oh and Olivia, and so she’s wearing her jeans and a sweater and she’s way, way too hot. Her jacket is in the car; her regular running clothes and shoes are back at home. None of this matters.
Now, she’s past Leschi and then Seward Park, and it’s a little creepy out that way, with the lake a deep indigo and the big evergreens shaking their boughs overhead. This is the thing she wants to outrun: the creepiness. Not only the creepiness of Seward Park and the creepiness that just happened at Dick’s, but all creepiness, all powerlessness, all moments where you feel your fate in someone else’s hands.
Seriously, she should not be running in this part of the city at night. People get hurt here. Robbed. Killed. She feels a weird fearlessness. Whatever. Come and get me, she thinks. Do you think I care?
Then, she thinks something else: I could keep going and going.
This is where big ideas come from—a flash across the brain screen in moments when all the circuits are throwing sparks. The where and the why and the I don’t know form the tiniest ball of cells you’d need a microscope to see.
Big ideas can lead to great things. Big ideas can lead to disaster. The cells begin to divide.
Her phone has been buzzing in her pocket. She is hours late getting home. People are worried. She brushes away the thought, but then the responsible-person guilt collides with the burn in her legs and the ache in her toes. This is a large part of Annabelle Agnelli—the weight of what she owes everyone. It makes the gears of her anxiety click and whirl. Finally, she stops. She’s panting hard.
There is a park off to her left. She’s lived in Seattle all her life, but she’s never been out here. GENE COULON MEMORIAL BEACH PARK, the sign reads. CITY OF RENTON. She slurps down the Coke, crushes the cup. Crushing things feels awesome. She walks in a circle until her breath regulates, because she knows what will happen to her muscles if she doesn’t. Her chest burns.
Help me, Kat, Annabelle thinks. What do I do?
Keep going, Kat answers.
See? Kat is her best friend, so she understands. Kat knows Annabelle better than anyone, except maybe a certain someone who is losing her mind right about now. A certain someone who is calling and calling. Annabelle reaches for her buzzing phone.
“I’m okay, Mom,” she answers.
“Oh, God, Annabelle. Dear Jesus, where the hell are you?” Yes—God, Jesus, and hell in a ten-word sentence is really packing it in there, but this is Gina Agnelli. For her, being Catholic isn’t just about religion—it’s about superstition and safekeeping and tradition. She rarely goes to mass, but she’s got the required crucifix over the kitchen doorway, the rosary in the dresser drawer, and the stack of dead relatives’ funeral cards, held together with a rubber band. It’s almost hard for Annabelle to believe that people are still Catholic. But the Catholic church is something that’s been around for a zillion years and will keep on being around for a zillion years, in spite of the bad press and rumors of vanishing, kind of like Hostess Twinkies.
How can Annabelle believe in anything anymore, though? It’d be nice to have belief, but it’s likely gone for good.
“I’m at Gene Coulon Park. In Renton?”
“What? Why? Who are you there with? Have you been drinking?”
Ha. Annabelle wishes. “No, I haven’t been drinking! I ran here.”
“You ran there? What do you mean, you ran there? Where’s the car? Christ in heaven, do you know how worried I was? I was worried sick.”
Worry! Annabelle’s mother is always worried! She was worried even before last year, even before there was reason. Worry is another way Gina tries to keep everyone safe. Worry is a different version of prayer. Here is what happens when your mother worries: You become secretly worried. Anxiety plays in your background like bad grocery store music. You pace and count stuff and wake at night, your heart beating too fast. You pretend to be brave, and do stuff to prove you’re not a scared person like she is. The constant worry (over your whereabouts, over certain friends, over anything and everything, but always the wrong things) bashes into your head: You are not safe. The world is full of danger and treachery. You don’t have a chance.
Look what good all that worry did anyway.
How can you feel safe? It is a complicated question. Which is fitting, because Annabelle is complicated. Hidden behind all that nice-and-pretty, she is desperate and grief-stricken.
“I’m fine, Mom.”
Of course she is not. She is most definitely not fine.
“Malcolm was trying to ping you, whatever that means! And I almost called Grandpa to go look for you, that’s how frantic I was. Annabelle, you can’t just disappear for hours.”
Malcolm: Annabelle’s younger brother. Technological genius, thirteen-year-old MacGyver. Brainiac, irritant, little buddy. Ed Agnelli: Grandpa. Nickname: Capitano. Former owner and boss of a frozen fish packing company, who retired and became the solo skipper of his own ship—an RV he drove around the country. Currently—their next-door neighbor. Add in Bit the dog: breed unknown. Small, brown and tan. Superfast underwear snatcher. Also, Carl Walter: Mom’s occasional boyfriend, division manager of AT&T. Rabid Seahawks fan. Still thinks Pop-Tarts and Hi-C are decent nutritional choices. Finally: Anthony. Annabelle and Malcolm’s dad. Former high school athlete and runaway parent, now Father Anthony, a priest at Saint Therese’s near Boston. Also known as: That Bastard Father Anthony, which is what Gina’s called him ever since he left six years ago, after saying he’d had enough. Annabelle—she has stopped calling him altogether.
There it is: La famiglia. The family.
“Annabelle? Annabelle! Are you there?”
“Why are you so quiet? You’re making me nervous.”
Oh, mothers can drive you nuts, but mothers know you.
It’s now or never.
“I’m not coming home.”
“What do you mean, you’re not coming home? Of course you’re coming home. I’ve got my car keys in my hand. Malcolm!” she shouts. “Look up Gene Colon Park on GPS!”
“Not Colon. Coulon. Cu.” A wave of hysteria rises up. She almost laughs. Cu is an abbreviation for culo, Italian slang for ass. “But you don’t need to come now. I’ve got a hundred and twenty bucks of birthday money in my wallet. I saw a Best Western a ways back.”
“We’ll be there in a half hour, if I don’t get lost.”
“I’m not coming home. I mean it.”
“Annabelle. Stop this right now. I mean it. I’m the one who gets to mean it! What happened at Zach Oh’s? Something happened.” Gina says Zach’s name really fast. Zackos. It sounds like the online shoe-shopping site for people who’ve lost their minds.
“Nothing happened at Zach’s.”
“Is this some Dungeons and Dragons thing?”
“Mom, no. . . .”
How to explain it? Even to herself?
She replays the scene: She is leaving Zach’s. She actually feels good. She’s light, lighter than she’s been in months. They’d even had fun. Driving home, she spots the snowy ridge of the Cascade Mountains in the distance. It’s so beautiful that it fills her with a Nature’s Wonders surge of gratitude. Her iPod plays. It’s an old song she snitched from her mother—British alternative, rising good energy, from the time of shoulder pads and big hair. I’m alive! So alive!
She flinches at the words, but she ignores it. Up ahead, she sees the slowly spinning Dick’s sign. The delicious smell of grilling burgers marches through her heater vents. On a whim, she pulls in. She’s suddenly starving. It’s so alive hunger. It feels good.
She orders, and then slides the money through the bank-teller-ish window of Dick’s. She pushes the little lever of the box for a straw, yanks a stack of napkins. She collects her bag and her drink. And then she turns around.
There are two young guys in line behind her. The one in the army jacket is obviously drunk. He half leans on his friend. “Hey, beautiful,” he slurs to Annabelle. “Hey, come here.”
He steps toward her. He reaches for her arm. She feels his fingers through her sleeve.
“Chad, come on, man,” the other guy says.
“She’s beautiful. I want beautiful.”
“Chad, knock it off.”
Annabelle wrenches her arm free. She tries to pass, but can’t pass. The so alive vanishes. She stands there with her bag, paralyzed and small. The friend steers drunken Chad into another line.
“I was going to step in, in a minute,” the man behind them says. He’s as thin as fettuccine and wears a peacoat and a muffler. He has kind eyes. Annabelle wants to kiss him. Honestly, she’d do more than kiss him. She doesn’t care if he hoards bongs or spends his days in his mother’s basement, learning guitar. She doesn’t care about anything except the offer of safety.
All of it—the hand, the arm, the vulnerability, the urge to kiss the saving man—it crashes like an avalanche. All of the wrongness thunders and falls and threatens to bury her alive. Annabelle wants to be strong, and strong on her own, but she has no idea how. She doesn’t want to imagine that some guy can save her, because she knows that’s a lie. She doesn’t want to feel fear like that, or be paralyzed by it ever again. She wants to rise up, set her gorilla-mean chest right up against the chest of anyone threatening her. She wants to be the kind of woman who says No man will ever and No one messes with me, who banters about the power of her vagina and cutting the dicks off of bullies. Fierce talk. Bold, big, back the fuck off talk.
She’d like to even just believe talk like that, but she can’t. It’s not only because of what happened nine months ago. It’s about the bigger reality here. A reality that words can’t make untrue. She’s five foot three. She’s a hundred and ten pounds. She’s a young woman. History—her own, and the world’s, years and years ago and just yesterday—has told her the truth about the vulnerability of her gender. As a female, her safety, her well-being, and the light she has for the world are still often overlooked and stomped on. That is quite clear.
She is also beautiful, which means it’s what people see first, and sometimes, the only thing they see, and this is power and weakness both, but mostly weakness, at least so far. And while no one has put a hand on her (this is not that story, though of course for many women it is)—she understands something after last year that she wishes she didn’t. She understands that when push comes to shove, literally or otherwise, that she must rely on other people being good and doing the right thing. And this, as she knows—as she knows very, very well—is a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s fine most of the time, but at others, it is a thin thread. The thinnest.
She feels the thinness of that thread when that man’s hand is on her arm, and she realizes there is nowhere for her to go, and nothing she could do, not really, if he decided to harm her. She can’t overpower him. All she has is her voice, and even that can seem as helpful as shouting into a hurricane.
She is back in that place again, that horrible place, and the fun day is gone, and the happy music is gone, and the hunger is gone, and there is only the need to claw herself from the avalanche and get away. And that is how she finds herself here, at Gene Coulon Park in Renton. Her mind whirled and her feet slapped and slapped the pavement and now she is standing in a parking lot, trying to tell her mother what she is suddenly determined to do.
“Annabelle!” Gina nearly screams. “Stop going silent! Tell me what is happening.”
“I’m not coming home. I’m going to run and keep running. I’m going to run until I reach Washington, DC.” Of course, this is crazy and impossible and doomed, even if she’s a long-distance runner and has two marathon medals hanging on the doorknob of her room. It is silly, and dramatic, and naive. Also—idealistic. Of course, she has no concept of the realities here. She has no plan. No team. No training. She will fail, fail, fail. But all she can feel at this moment is how much she personally needs this. She needs this so bad.
Yes, she is that Annabelle Agnelli.
“This is PTSD, Annabelle,” her mother says. “Don’t you remember what Dr. Mann said? This is hyperarousal, recklessness. Have you been having flashbacks? You haven’t been sleeping well, I know. Talk to me. No one just does something like this. People who do . . . they plan, Annabelle. For months. There’s, I don’t know! Lots of stuff involved! No one just takes off. I’m coming to get you. Stop acting crazy.”
Stop acting crazy? Well, it is far, far too late for that.
Reading Group Guide
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A Heart in a Body in the World
By Deb Caletti
About the Book
Sometimes, all you can do is run. That’s where Annabelle finds herself; she can’t tell you if she’s running away from the terrible tragedy that’s behind her, or toward what awaits at the end. All she can tell you is that she can no longer be the girl she was before. She can’t sleep in that girl’s bed. She can’t face that girl’s friends. She can’t live that girl’s life. All she can do is run, and so she does. All the way across the country. But something strange happens as she makes her solitary way through the American landscape. Her family and friends form a support team to make sure she has food and water and a place to sleep each night. Strangers hear about her run and offer their support, both monetary and in person by the sides of the streets as she runs through their towns. Her run inspires mobilization and activism. And Annabelle, left alone with her thoughts, begins to come to terms with the event that changed her life.
1. The author begins the book with a quote from Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. What does this quote tell you about the story before you read? What significance does Lansing’s work end up having in the story?
2. What specific event causes Annabelle to start running? At this point in the story, do you understand why this affects her so strongly? Do you think Annabelle understands why she’s running? Why do you think the author takes her time in giving us the full picture of what happened to Annabelle?
3. How does Gina’s anxiety affect Annabelle? What does Annabelle worry about? How does she cope with her anxiety? Did worrying prevent bad things from happening to her? Can you relate to Annabelle and Gina? If so, how do you tackle your anxiety?
4. Annabelle “understands that when push comes to shove, literally or otherwise, that she must rely on other people being good and doing the right thing. And this . . . is a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s fine most of the time, but at others, it is a thin thread.” Why does she feel this way? Do you agree with her assessment? Have you ever felt like you were relying on others to be good?
5. In the Best Western hotel, on Annabelle’s first night away, “Malcolm’s and Annabelle’s eyes meet and have a conversation. In that split second, stuff is decided, a vow is made.” Which one of them is making a vow, and what is it? Why is Malcolm so supportive of Annabelle’s plan? What does Malcolm understand early on that Gina fails to? Why do you think that is? Consider their roles as brother and mother in your answer. How does Malcolm continue to show his support throughout the run?
6. The book states: “Every time she waited at a bus stop or was at a party with boys and alcohol or was just plain alone, she felt the high alert of vigilance. You could forget that some people don’t live this way. Part of the population rarely even thinks like this. They just walk around without fear and wait at bus stops and go to parties.” Have you or someone you know ever felt this way? What might contribute to this feeling? How might this feeling be changed?
7. Annabelle says of Olivia and Zach that “it’s the people who know you and love you that save you.” Do you think this is always true? In what ways can the people who love you save you? Who saves Annabelle?
8. What did her experience with Georgie Zacharro teach Annabelle? Did these interactions impact the way she dealt with The Taker?
9. Why does Annabelle cut her own hair off? What do you think the hair signifies to her? Do you think she is confronting her feelings by taking this action? Explain your answer. How does this new haircut change the way people interact with her?
10. How does Annabelle’s attitude toward food change during the course of her run? Why does this change come about? Discuss your relationship with food. When can food become more than just about sustenance? What are the conflicting messages that society sends young girls regarding their bodies, weight, and food?
11. Why do Gina and Grandpa Ed fight so much? What effect does their fighting have on Malcolm and Annabelle? Discuss the complexity often found in family dynamics and whether it’s easy to change them. Can family members say things to one another that no one else can? Explain your answer.
12. In her pack, Annabelle keeps a collection of things that give her “hope that she might one day have hope.” What does this mean? Why don’t these items give her hope directly? What do they symbolize? How much hope does she have by the end of the story? How important is hope for survival?
13. Why is it so difficult for Annabelle to accept the attention she gets for her run, including the donations, the support from the groups she meets on her route, and the interview requests? Is it more or less difficult for her to accept help from people she knows, like Olivia and Zach Oh? Think about her reasons for running, the guilt she carries. How would you feel about the attention if you were in Annabelle’s shoes? Does she understand how many people showing support share a degree of her experience? Discuss how Annabelle’s run makes her an unintentional activist at first, and then a more empowered one.
14. What is left when Annabelle gives up her guilt, anxiety, and blame? Why does anger come as such a shock to her? Has she ever felt or expressed this sort of rage before? What does she do with her anger? Why is showing or feeling anger often viewed negatively, as something to avoid? Can anger be a good thing?
15. After almost being hit by a Hostess truck, Annabelle yells a profanity at the driver. Think about the use of profanity in this context. What does the word represent to Annabelle? How do her actions in this moment affect her? How do you choose the words you use? Do you think it’s the words themselves or the tone that’s more important?
16. We learn very early on in the book that Annabelle suffers from PTSD. How does this manifest itself in her life? Do your feelings toward Annabelle change as you gradually learn about the event that causes her PTSD? What does she have in common with other PTSD sufferers? What did you know about PTSD before the book? Do you think PTSD can be misunderstood? Explain your answer.
17. Why does Annabelle start writing facts about the heart in her Moleskine notebook? What kinds of information does she collect? How does this activity help her come to terms with what she is feeling? What topics might you write about if you’re upset? Why can information be comforting?
18. Annabelle can’t bring herself to say the name of the boy who hurt her, instead calling him “The Taker.” Why is this name appropriate for him? What does the use of his real name at the end of the book signify? What has changed? What has Annabelle reclaimed?
19. Why is Annabelle so affected by the lightning storm while running? What about the deer that she sees die? What do these two events represent in her mind? What do you think could help her deal with the lingering effects of her past trauma?
20. Why does Annabelle feel like she should be punished for her part in the tragedy? Do you think she’s guilty of anything? How much of the blame should go toward societal expectations and representations of boys and girls and love? What kind of expectations do you have about relationships and love based on movies, TV shows, and advertisements you see? How do you evaluate the strength of a relationship? How do you show respect for someone?
21. What is it about Luke that allows Annabelle to trust him? How does he change his behavior as a reaction to what he knows about her? How is he different than The Taker? What impact does Luke and his grandmother’s presence have on Annabelle and her grandfather’s trek east? Compare and contrast both pairs’ attitudes toward life. How do Annabelle’s and Luke’s grandparents model what it means to have a caring relationship?
22. What do you think Annabelle’s next step(s) will be? What might be some of the long-term effects of her run? What kind of impact does it have on a larger community? How does it contribute to a larger conversation?
1. Annabelle has always used running as a way to relieve stress, clear her mind, and center herself. Begin your own routine to alleviate the stresses in your life. Research methods for finding calm and introspection, like yoga or meditation. Spend a few hours doing your selected activity, and then write an essay using a journal-entry style that reflects on your experience. How did it make you feel? Will you continue to incorporate it into your life? How might it offer a healthy method for coping with life’s stresses?
2. This book touches on a lot of crucial topics, including gun control, mental health, sexism, sexual harassment, and the #MeToo movement. Choose one of these movements and make your voice heard. Write a letter to your local representative to share your view and concerns on one of these topics. What would you like them to be more aware of? What change is needed, and how would you like them to address it with legislation?
3. As Annabelle runs through various states, she notices the beauty in each of them. What landmarks and natural features make your state unique and beautiful? Choose one of these and write an article for a travel magazine about what it is and what makes it beautiful. Then write a personal essay as if you’re walking through the landmark on foot, explaining what you see as you see it. How does this shift in point of view and style change your perspective on the landmark? Think about how the landmark looks from afar and how it looks up close, and relate this to Annabelle’s experiences as she runs from Seattle and then must address her trauma when she arrives in DC. How does time or distance change the way we see things?
4. Luke makes a mix tape for Annabelle that speaks to her experience running across the country. Choose a major event in your life and create your own mix of music that explains or reflects the experience. If you shared the experience with another person, perhaps you could share your “mix tape” with them.
5. Think about society’s perceptions of female anger, and how angry women have been represented in books and movies like Thelma and Louise, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, and Thor: Ragnarok. Form a discussion group with four classmates; each member should choose a book or movie that deals with feminine rage, and then discuss their observations and feelings with the group.
Guide written by Cory Grimminck, Director of the Portland District Library in Michigan.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Why We Love It
Annabel’s story, like every girl’s story, matters…and her strength can make a difference. —Caitlin S., Associate Director of Marketing on A Heart in the Body of the World
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 7, 2020)
- Length: 384 pages
- ISBN13: 9781481415217
- Grades: 9 and up
- Ages: 14 and up
- Lexile ® HL680L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
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Raves and Reviews
A guy in a parking lot leers at her, and Annabelle Agnelli takes off running. Eleven miles later, she stops, only to realize that running is exactly what she needs to do. Not just an impromptu, panic-stricken bolt, but an outlandishly extreme run that will take her from Seattle to Washington, D.C. It might help with her PTSD, and it might help her come to terms with her body. It will surely give her time to mourn the terrible losses of the previous year, and atone for the role she was never meant to play. This remarkable book traces Annabelle’s cross-country adventure while gradually peeling apart the events that led to the trauma she’s running from. Annabelle was on the rebound from a disrupted relationship when she befriends a socially awkward boy, now known only as “The Taker.” Annabelle couldn’t decide if he was weird or cute and tried not to encourage him, but looking back, she is tormented by her every smile and kindness. Through Annabelle, Caletti rips apart the contradictions of a society that commands women to be compliant and pleasing and then blames them for male responses to their attractiveness, however violent they might be. This timely, well-written novel is crucial reading in the days of #metoo. — Diane Colson
– Booklist *STARRED REVIEW*, June 1, 2018
Annabelle Agnelli runs from Seattle to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to outrun a traumatizing incident that occurred less than a year earlier. Eighteen-year-old Seattleite Annabelle is hardworking, pretty, and seemingly has it all: good grades, great friends, and a loving family. Following a tragedy, however, Annabelle is wracked with guilt over a crime she did not commit but feels responsible for, and as a result, she suffers from severe anxiety and PTSD. The only thing she feels she can do now is run. Joined by her Italian immigrant grandfather, Grandpa Ed, in his RV and cheered on by a self-appointed publicity team comprising her 13-year-old brother, Malcolm, and her friends Zach (indicated East Asian by his surname) and Olivia (presumed white), Annabelle runs across the nation in an attempt to come to terms with the event perpetrated by a person whom she dubs The Taker. Written in the present tense, Caletti's (What's Become of Her, 2017, etc.) narrative conveys a sense of urgency and immediacy as she presents issues familiar to many young women, including rape culture, violence, and the internalization of guilt and social critique. A timely novel with strong secondary characters that emphasizes the complexities of the heart and doing what is right. (Fiction. 14-adult)
– Kirkus STARRED REVIEW, 6/15/18
Seventeen-year-old Annabelle Agnelli needs to run away from tragedy. She starts in her hometown of Seattle with the intention to run 2,700 miles to Washington, D.C. As she crosses the vast and lonely terrain, she has flashbacks that gradually reveal what she is trying to flee. She runs to punish herself for the crime she thinks she has committed; she runs to feel the pain she thinks she deserves. Annabelle unwittingly becomes a spokesperson for a greater cause and a reluctant role model. Caletti tackles two big topics—gun violence and violence against women—with enormous skill. Annabelle’s story never seems forced or heavy-handed; Caletti realistically mines the gray areas of the teen’s conscience. Portrayals of complex, multifaceted secondary characters and vivid descriptions of the protagonist’s surroundings permeate this story and make it come to life. Readers can almost smell the pine trees, see the glimmering lake water, and feel the steamy heat rising off of the pavement as Annabelle runs across the country. They can also feel her confusion and pain, which makes her hard-won self-redemption most rewarding. VERDICT A moving novel centered on timely issues that deserves a place in all libraries serving young adults.–Melissa Kazan, Horace Mann School, NY
– School Library Journal, July 2018
“Masterful… This is one for the ages.” –Gayle Forman, New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay
“Caletti’s novel dazzlingly maps the mind-blowing ferocity and endurance of an athlete who uses her physical body to stake claim to the respect of the nation.” –E. Lockhart, New York Times bestselling author of Genuine Fraud and We Were Liars
“More than bittersweet… It will nestle inside your brain as well as your heart.” –Jodi Lynn Anderson, award-winning author of Midnight at the Electric
“Remarkable.” –Booklist, starred review
“A timely novel.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Powerful.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A moving novel centered on timely issues.” –School Library Journal
It’s been nine months since an unnamed act of violence left runner Annabelle “broken and guilty and scared.” When an incident at a restaurant triggers bad memories for the high school senior, she takes off running, forming a plan to go 2,719 miles, from Seattle to Washington, D.C. In a powerful story of a survivor trying to regain a sense of justice and power, Caletti (Honey, Baby, Sweetheart) details a young woman’s harrowing psychological and physical journey across the United States. Thanks to support—written with tender detail, her younger brother and friends create a GoFundMe website, her grandfather trails her in his well-equipped RV, and a growing fan base cheers her on—Annabelle’s trek quickly evolves into a cause. What happened to Annabelle and why she feels compelled to run to the nation’s capital remain undefined until the book’s end, when a series of flashbacks playing in the heroine’s mind reveal clues as she battles exhaustion, dehydration, and pain during her 16-mile-a-day run. Caletti expresses familiar themes about what it can be like to live as a woman in U.S. society, constantly guarding against threat (“What are you supposed to do when you’re also required to be kind and helpful as well as vigilant?”). Annabelle’s determination to make a difference in spite of her fears sends an inspiring and empowering message.
– Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW, July 30, 2018
Annabelle is running. It starts as a momentary impulse, when emotions over a recent trauma crash in on her as she waits in a fast-food line, but now she thinks it’s her purpose, and the former high school track athlete decides she’s going to run from her home in Seattle to Washington, D.C. Annabelle has the support of her staunch little brother and beloved hometown friends, and soon her retired grandfather trundles along in his RV to provide her with a backup vehicle, home-cooked meals, and Italian curses. As Annabelle runs, her past acquaintance with a boy she labels only as “The Taker” plays out in brief flashback scenes that spiral down into guilt and grief and that gradually accrue into a high-tension, dread-infused leadup to a catastrophic event. Caletti takes the familiar road-trip genre and changes it up for a story of foot-driven travel, infused with the pounding rhythm of Annabelle’s stride and involving intimate encounters with scenery and people all across the country. This is also a story of the dilemma of being young and female, of being inculcated with the message that it’s important to be nice and that you are responsible for the emotions of other people, and straining to find messages about your own wants or even safety to counterbalance. The book’s slow reveal of the harrowing tragedy is executed here with rare meaning as Annabelle herself, alone on the road, inches closer to the pain she’s attempting to survive. What makes this book particularly affecting is the overwhelming kindness of people, whether her intimates or strangers along the way, who cheer and help Annabelle along her journey. Annabelle exemplifies persisting nevertheless, with her running body and with her heart, and readers will understand her turmoil and cheer her resilience.
– BCCB *STARRED REVIEW, September 2018
"A moving, unfortunately timely, and gut-wrenching story that will stick with you."
"This is, quite simply, a book everyone should read right now."
– New York Times Book Review
Awards and Honors
- ALA Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book
- California Young Reader Medal Nominee
- Lincoln Award: Illinois Teen Readers' Choice Master List
- Thumbs Up! Award Top Ten Title (MI)
- ALA Best Books For Young Adults
- Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
- Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
- NYPL Best Books for Teens
- Gateway Readers Award Final Nominee (MO)
- Iowa High School Book Award Nominee
- YARP Award Nominee (SD)
- TAYSHAS Reading List (TX)
- Amelia Bloomer List
- Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection Title
- Amazing Audiobooks for YA
- Evergreen High School Book Award List (WA)
- Intermediate Sequoyah Book Award Master List (OK)
- Just One More Page Recommendation List
- Magnolia Book Award (MS)
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): A Heart in a Body in the World Trade Paperback 9781481415217
- Author Photo (jpg): Deb Caletti Photograph © Susan Doupé(0.1 MB)
Any use of an author photo must include its respective photo credit
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