Review: Running On Empty (Ballard)

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AUTHOR: Colette Ballard
SERIES: none
ISBN: 9781939392800
PAGES: 376
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: action, mystery

SUMMARY: In an attempt to save herself and the boy she loves, River Daniels commits murder. Dazed and in shock, River’s two best friends help her flee the state and the possibility of jail time.

REVIEW: This will no doubt be compared with Thelma & Louise, and that is a pretty decent comparison. As in T & L, our main character River Daniels shoots and kills someone to prevent an imminent rape. Her best friends Billie Jo and Kat find River walking along the road, dazed and covered in blood. Knowing River will not get a fair trial in their area, the two friends whisk River away to Las Vegas, where they struggle to find jobs and stay off the police radar.

I really enjoyed this story, which despite its focus on the three female protagonists, still contains a sweet romance between River and her long-time best friend Justice, whom River was trying to protect the night of the shooting. Though there are some overly-convenient coincidences, the story mostly kept me on my toes and turning pages late into the night.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Action-packed with some mystery and romance, Running on Empty is a fun, engrossing read that compares with one of my favorite movies of all time.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it–too mature for a MS library (see content notes below).

READALIKES: Speak (Anderson), Nineteen Minutes (Picoult)


  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: medium-high–includes multiple bit**, sh**, and fu**
  • Sexuality: medium–rape is central to the story; talking about sex/loss of virginity; girls purposely use their sexuality to distract male characters
  • Violence: high–attempted rape, murder
  • Drugs/Alcohol: high–teen drinking, marijuana use, cigarette-smoking

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