Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Ghost is fast. After fleeing with his mother in the middle of the night from his dad and a loaded gun, Ghost never stopped running. But he isn't a runner. Ghost is basketball player, not that he has ever been on a team or even worked up the courage to join the guys at the local park. In his head though, he has convinced himself that if he ever did play, he would be really good. One day, when Ghost comes across a private track team on their first day of practice, he is fascinated. Why would anyone need to practice running? On a whim, he walks out of the stands and down on the track, ignoring the angry coach and the annoyed kids. He races one of the kids, wins, and suddenly finds himself on a track team. But he isn't a runner. Yet he is drawn to this world and to the coach. His mom agrees, if he can stay out of trouble, he can be on the track team. Staying out of trouble is not something Ghost is very good at though.
Book one of a series, Ghost is one of the few sports focused books I have read that I really enjoyed. The story is mostly character-driven and somehow, even though I certainly can't relate to all of his experiences, there were aspects of him that I did understand. Like growing up poor. The temptation (one that he gives into) to steal something in order to fit in and have what someone else haves that you would never be able to afford. What I didn't relate to, I just found fascinating. I loved the running element not because of the sport aspect, but because it symbolized how Ghost had never stopped running after the night his father chased him and his mother out onto the street. Ghost has an interesting character flaw in that he has fairly high self-esteem, but in things that are unsubstantiated. He has never played basketball on a team, but is convinced that not only would he be good, but he would be better than the other players. I have met people like this. People who have never played an instrument, but are sure that if they just tried, they would be a really good guitarist. I knew a guy who would tell people he was really good with languages even though he only spoke English. He liked to study the etymology of words, but had never bothered to learn other languages because he said that wasn't as important as knowing the history of the languages themselves. It's an interesting mindset.
I want to also mention two of the secondary characters who, rumor has it, will have their own books moving forward. Lu is albino, a disability that is mentioned in passing and not one that Ghost knows anything about, but one that I rarely see in a book. I am hoping there is a book about him. Then there is Patina. Patina is the one who explains albinism to Ghost after pointing out how Lu's parents are black and so is Lu, but because he has albinism he doesn't quite "match". Then she clarifies about her own parents right after, pointing out that her parents did not have reverse albinism. That she is in fact adopted and her parents are white. Later she tells the track team that she knows and visits with her biological mother who has a lot of health problems which is why Patina can't live with her. Older child adoption with a multi-ethnic family and a kid who knows her birth mom?! Is this real life?! I can't believe someone else is writing about this. I am very excited to see what Reynolds does with her character.
I think this is fantastic beginning to a series and I am very excited for Jason Reynolds as this book was longlisted for the National Book Award. A quick read that is bound to appeal to a large audience.