Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Whenever I look through the children's and YA fiction sections at my local bookstore, I find myself having a hard time not buying one of everything. I have to remind myself that I didn't win the lottery, and I have to pay my bills and buy food. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I'd be spending a big chunk of change on books. Yes, I do use my library, but I also (as I've said before) buy books every month week. I bought Ghost last year and it sat on my shelf until this month. One of my book groups will be discussing it next week. I love reading a book for a group discussion and  ticking it off my backlist reading challenge. 

Ghost is a quick read, and I quickly became a fan of Jason Reynolds. Ghost is a young boy named Castle Cranshaw, and he can run. He found that out one night when his father, drinking heavily, tried to shoot Ghost and his mother. They fled and his father went to jail. Now Ghost and his mom have a new normal, and that new normal is tough for Ghost. He's bullied at school for pretty much everything: how he looks, what he wears (his mom buys clothes bigger so he can grow into them), what he eats (french fries at lunch so he has money to buy sunflower seeds after school). He doesn't really have any close friends, and feels isolated. Until one day he sees some kids practicing at a track, and his life takes a big turn. 

Ghost's life doesn't automatically become better just because he's given a chance to be part of a track team. He still struggles between doing what's right and doing what's wrong, and not letting his emotions and frustration guide his choices. Coach is tough on Ghost, but that's what Ghost needs. His mom is hard working and striving to make life better for both of them, but that leaves Ghost alone all week and he's very conscious of not creating extra demands on his mom. All of this is bundled up inside Ghost, who runs to find relief and escape. 

You get quickly invested in Ghost, and will find yourself cheering him on. He's a good kid who reacts and hasn't yet learned how to deal with frustration and anger. Yes, your typical teen. We've all been there, right? But Ghost has a whole lot of difficult emotions to work through and a whole lot of stereotypes to deal with as well. 

Ghost is the first in The Track Series. I was excited to see this, and plan on reading about all of the track team members. I'm sure their stories will be just as compelling as Ghost's story. There are discussion questions at the back of the book for book groups--I'm sure my group will have some interesting things to say about Ghost. 

Rating:  4/6 for a compelling story about one young man's choices, working through emotional turmoil, finding a positive outlet and believing in yourself. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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