The biggest reason behind why I decided to pick up Sprint Dreams by Faith Dismuke was because of its subject matter. Despite the fact that I’m not really the sort of person who cares even one iota about sports, I was pulled in by the fact that Dismuke referenced that speaking out against toxic and abusive relationships was a huge influence on her novel and the fact that this book is diverse. And while I will say that this is by no means a bad book, I found myself really struggling to get through it. Despite great themes and excellent messages, Sprint Dreams suffers largely as a novel. And this is primarily because Dismuke tried to send a large number of messages all at once.
So much disorganization.
This novel is, simply put, all over the place. Plot points come in and disappear before ever really becoming anything important. Sometimes they’ll come back for a brief cameo later, but they never actually really go anywhere. For example, everything to do with the book about dreams and all of the main character, Makeda’s nightmares were entirely pointless and did nothing but make the novel drag. Also, it involved theft for no reason and that frankly just drove me nuts.
Dismuke includes a number of messages about a wide variety of topics from race and sexuality to abuse and abortion. And this can be a great thing, especially since Dismuke handled every single topic incredibly well. She even handles religion well, which is something I have an incredibly difficult time reading about in novels due to my own personal struggles and frustrations with it. The problem with Sprint Dreams, however, comes with the fact that all these messages seem like talking points. Dismuke throws them into her novel and never spends a significant amount of time developing any of it.
All over the place.
The closest she gets to sending a message about one of these topics is the trauma abuse, gaslighting, and grooming that Makeda suffers at the hands of her coach causes. This is the one topic that she spends an acceptable amount of time developing, but even that is left without enough focus and has a rather poor resolution in the end. While I will forever applaud Dismuke’s take on the subject and how she incorporated these aspects into her novel to impart genuinely heartfelt and promising messages about them all, none are as impactful as they could have been.
And the novel does hurt for it. Points that are meant to be extremely emotional become less so due to the lack of attention and detail spent in the writing on these subjects.
What’s necessary and what isn’t.
There’s also a disconnect with Dismuke’s understanding of what information to include and what to skip over. So often she includes pointless scenes that add nothing to the novel whilst decreasing the amount of time spent on specific character and relationship development. On several occasions, we get unfortunate summaries and information dumping that results in feeling as though there is no build-up to explain why a character is acting the way they are. This book as a whole would have been infinitely better had Dismuke spent less time on some areas and more on others.
Now, one thing I will say is that a lot of the summarizing and information dumping issues are prevalent primarily in the beginning of the novel. As the story progresses, this does decrease to the point that I found myself enjoying the novel more and more as I read through it. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the novel has an incredibly strong end. It is, unfortunately, everything else that needs some work.
A bit too much religion.
I do think that this book does have some good points on religion. The ones that stick out the most are when Dismuke points out problems like the whitewashing in Christianity and the intolerance some have toward people of the LGBTQ community. That said, for me personally, there was too much religion. This is probably ironic since, like much else in the novel, the topic was brought in and kicked out rather quickly without ever spending enough time to develop it.
But I couldn’t stand the moments in which characters tried to push others to join them at mass. I was immensely bothered by the character who was outwardly hostile toward bi and gay characters in the novel. She was, rightfully so, considered to be a bigot. Regardless, I always feel disappointed when reading books that push religion in any form.
Okay, so this was arguably the most developed portion of the novel. And, for the most part, it was handled well. At times, I’ll admit, I did question certain decisions–for example, the way Makeda learned about her own sexuality–but overall I thought this was a valiant and well-done portrayal of how a person in power can automatically damage another person. Additionally, Makeda’s journey through this and her final response were respectable and empowering.
This is especially impressive due to the realistic, but still disappointing, final outcome for the abuser. Did I like how this was resolved? No, not at all. Do I think Makeda’s portrayal was well done? Yes. Do I think it was realistic? Unfortunately, that’s a yes, too.
Naomi, Naomi, Naomi
Honestly, in my mind, this should have been a book solely about Makeda and Naomi. Of all the supporting characters, Naomi’s inclusion and role was the absolute best. This is kind of impressive considering Naomi’s side plot was, like almost everything else, also brought in, glossed over, and kicked out far too quickly. That said, I think Dismuke could have done amazing things if she had simply focused all her writing efforts on really developing the main stories of these two girls and how their friendship evolves based on what they both experienced at the hands of their coach.
Notice I said friendship and not relationship. That was intentional. I am quite fond of how Dismuke ended Makeda’s story and would never want to see that changed. The main reason I note this is that I know main characters can often get shipped together and were this to be a novel about these two girls, I don’t think a relationship between them would be necessary. Naomi’s story is better without a romantic partner and I’m already a huge fan of the girl Makeda does develop an interest in.
Honestly, I loved Naomi Chén so much. She was probably my favorite character from the whole novel. So much so that I would hands down be first in line to read a story about her journey, one focusing on the main message of her specific plot.
Sprint Dreams tried to do too much.
So, ultimately, Sprint Dreams is not a bad book. It’s actually quite impressive in a number of ways. Its problem lies solely in the fact that it tried to do everything all at once and got bogged down by a multitude of different storylines and plots that never really went anywhere. The entire first part of the novel could have been taken out and I don’t think anyone would have noticed since only one of those characters–Makeda’s first college coach–added anything to the plot. And honestly? His role could have been changed to a letter and would have had the same effect on the story.
I liked a lot of Sprint Dreams, but it wasn’t great like it should have been. This book could have been amazing if it just had the right editing.
I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.