Middle Grade Monday: Ghost, by Jason Reynolds

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Title: Ghost (Track #1)
Author: Jason Reynolds. Read by Guy Locknard
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster audio, 2016. Hardback by Atheneum, 2016. 192 pages
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb (from Goodreads):
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.

My Review:
This was another book from the GMGR list of books by Black authors. I'm not much into "sports books," but as a former runner I thought it looked intriguing, and it was. Ghost is a kid who clearly feels like he has long since been put in a pigeonhole and is pretty happy to stay there, though he never really intends to cause trouble... but he doesn't suffer bulllies and teasing with any patience, so trouble finds him. And he doesn't always make good decisions.

The author does a nice job of showing that Ghost is a kid who suffers as much from his own idea of how people are seeing him as from their actual perception of him, though he certainly gets picked on more than his share--and pushes back, hard. The middle school setting is key. I don't think at any other stage of life are kids so mean to other kids about stuff that is so unimportant. So Ghost has a load of anger to carry around, anger at his father and his classmates and the principal and the world. He also has PTSD from the terrifying experience of his dad trying to kill them. He's not on the way to any big trouble--yet--but he's not going anywhere else, either.

Will running track save Castle? We don't know. The author takes the story to the point where we know he has a chance. What he does with it--and how he runs when the pressure is on--are left for us to imagine (or maybe for the sequels, since Goodreads lists this as first in a series). The story is pretty strong, the characters a little bit running to "types," but generally clear, and the appeal to kids is clear. I wouldn't rate it as the best of what I've read, but for a sports book, this ranks pretty high with me.

The narration is good, and really brings Ghost (1st person narrator) to life.

My Recommendation:
A good read for the sports-minded, and one in which the race of the characters is significant, but isn't the point of the story--which to me is stronger story-telling. Ages 9-13 or 14, I think.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Ghost out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

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