SERIES THURSDAY: Ghost by Jason Reynolds


A National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.


I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I'd heard so much about it that I couldn't help wanting to read it.  And now I'm really glad that I did.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Castle Cranshaw (Ghost).  Castle makes for an great narrator as he explains about his father trying to shoot him and his mother, about dealing with a bully, and joining the Defenders track team.  'Ghost' as Castle prefers to be called, all to often reacts first and thinks later, such as when he impulsively steps up to compete with one of the Defenders runners to prove that he can run faster.  Then his anger gets the better of him and he attacks Brandon Simmons, a bully who won't leave him alone.  He makes a couple of other poor decisions as he struggles to cope with the circumstances in which he finds himself.  What I really appreciated in this book are the adults that Ghost has around, supporting and helping him.  Ghost's mother works hard to provide for herself and her son, the principal listens when Ghost explains why he attacked Brandon and applies appropriate punishments for both boys, and Coach, who encourages Ghost to make better choices, as well as offering solid discipline in terms of both character and athletics.  And as Ghost gets to know the other kids on the team, it offers him hope for a better future.

More books like this one are needed.  Books that help kids see themselves and the very real problems that they have to live with, but also windows, that allow other readers to develop empathy for those who face challenges different than their own.  The fact that this is a problem story that doesn't harp on the problems or have a narrator that feels sorry for himself makes the book all the more powerful.  Being under 200 pages also makes it a fairly quick and easy read for reluctant readers.  I also enjoyed the focus on a sport other than football, basketball, or baseball.  I'm glad that Reynolds is going to write more books in this series about the other kids that are on the track team.  I highly recommend this one, it justly deserved to be a National Book Award Finalist and is a great candidate for other upcoming awards.


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