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Book Review of What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

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Both tragic and real, this book review of What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan is the Madison Holleran book that gives you the details of this true story of a popular, athletic student who committed suicide. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided some recommended book pairings for further learning about this Kate Fagan book.

Review of What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan


Before I share my book review of What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan, I'd like to share that I can still remember turning on the Philadelphia news one January 2014 and learning of the death by suicide of University of Pennsylvania freshman, Madison Holleran. 

Something about Maddy's picture (a Senior class portrait)  touched me.  She looked so young and wholesome with her bright blue eyes, beautiful brown hair and youthfully rounded face.  She was clearly a great student and likely had a great future ahead of her.  I couldn't fathom what caused her to take such an action.

As weeks, months and years passed, we learned more about Maddy's story in the news, and I continued to follow it.  We learned that Maddy was an athletic and scholastic over-achiever who struggled tremendously in transitioning from a very small, safe, and loving hometown community where nothing bad ever happened to the world of the Ivy leagues, where each and every star student and athlete shone bright, and the cityscape was vast and intimidating. 

As a former law student in the same city as Maddy, coming from a small, very safe town as well, I could empathize with her struggles.

In the non-fiction book What Made Maddy Run, Kate Fagan explores the issues so many college students face, particularly what it means to be a "perfect" student-athlete and perceptions of an aspirational college life on Instagram:


You are never left wondering if you’ve made the wrong choice, or expended energy in the wrong direction, because there is only the one rung above you. Get good grades. Get better at your sport. Take the SAT. Do volunteer work. Apply to colleges. Choose a college. But then you get to college, and suddenly you’re out of rungs and that ladder has turned into a massive tree with hundreds of sprawling limbs, and progress is no longer a thing you can easily measure, because there are now thousands of paths to millions of destinations. And none are linear.

- Kate Fagan

Maddy's friends and family were brave and open in sharing their stories in Kate Fagan's book, and Maddy's story, so that others can learn and grow.   It's a raw and up-close look at how a downward spiral happened, even amidst a supportive and loving family.

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan is the Madison Holleran book about pressure, change, growth, social media, coping and so much more.  It's an absolute must-read, and I dedicate this post to her beautiful memory.

Read more reviews on Amazon.


Pairings for the Madison Holleran Book

For more like What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan:

Books Like What Made Maddy Run


I sincerely hope this book review of What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan inspires you to pick up this important book and/or continue to learn more about suicide issues and prevention.


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