Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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ghostThree years ago, middle schooler Castle ‘Ghost’ Crenshaw found out he could run fast, when he and his mother were escaping from his father firing a gun at them. Now he’s been invited to be a sprinter for an elite track team, but he feels he can’t compete while he has to wear his raggedy high-tops. As Ghost realizes he can’t run away from his past, readers will be rooting for him as he gets ready to run towards a better future.

Ghost narrates this compelling first book in a middle grade series, in which all the characters are black unless otherwise mentioned. He has had a challenging life, and is frequently in trouble for getting into “altercations” at school, but under the guidance of Coach Brody, who looks like “a turtle with a chipped tooth,” Ghost is able to quieten the “scream inside” as he trains with the team.

Ghost is a typical Reynolds’ (When I Was the Greatest, 2014) protagonist: robustly authentic, smart, intrinsically decent, and quirky, with his love of sunflower seeds and world records. His mother, studying for her nursing exams while working full time and bringing up Ghost on her own, is a strong role model for him too, and is humanized by her love of soppy romantic movies.

Future books will center on the other “newbies” in the team: Lu, Patina, and Sunny. They are initially rather flat characters given traits to make them memorable: Lu is albino, Patty has been adopted by a white family, and Sunny lives in a wealthy neighborhood. But they blossom in their sharing of secrets over a Chinese dinner, which is a Coach tradition for new members of the team.

This is a short, fast-paced (ha!) book that will appeal to readers of Kwame Alexander’s books.

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