I'm reviewing a MG novella for a change. I read the last 140 pages of Gary Paulsen's Woods Runner yesterday. (I had read the first 20 pages two or three days earlier.) It's a good book for it's age group. Truthfully, it may be considered a chapter book due to it's 5th grade reading level. I believe I bought it a few years ago at a book fair on the merit of its cover.
As far as characters go, I've seen better. I've also seen a lot worse. The protagonist is a good character for sure. He had the potential to be a great character, but something held it back. I think the problem may be the lack of body movement from him. His heart never flutters, he never breaks into a cold sweat, his stomach never pulses with pain. Those sorts of things really go over well with me. One of the supporting characters was a minor star. Everyone else served their purpose well enough.
The setting felt pretty strong to me. It shares some qualities with fantasy: a world with rough roads, lots of trees, and scattered villages. The sense of wonder wasn't as high, but it was great for historical fiction.
For a novella, the plot was solid. It held short fiction focus with novel diversity (for example, having secondary characters appearing in a few scenes then being replaced by other secondary characters). It's a good role-model for 5th grade English class for sure.
Gary Paulsen is one of the greats in the 11-year-old market. This book does not disappoint.