Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ghost (Track) by Jason Reynolds

Castle Cranshaw, nicknamed Ghost, sleeps by the door so he can quickly exit his house, need be. He has been running most of his life from a haunting past. His mom works in a hospital cafeteria while trying to get a nursing license at night. Other students at school tease him because he lives in a poor area and doesn't have brand name clothes. His simmering anger makes him want to "scream" and he gets detention so often that it is more like a class than punishment. One day he watches a track club team practicing and is angered by the fast, but cocky albino boy. He pops onto the track and races him in an indecisive close finish. The track coach recruits him and Ghost finds an outlet for his anger as well as some close teammates.

Jason Reynold's has a terrific start. Ghost is quoting from the Guinness Book of World Records spouting a bunch of weird facts. He'd like to be the best at something, instead of invisible. He eats only french fries at school so he can save a dollar and buy sunflower seeds, a habit that he picked up from his father. While Ghost's father has some serious issues, Ghost misses him and loves him. He is angry with him and this leads to problems at school for Ghost who uses his fists instead of words.

The character development is where the author shines the most. The complex relationships and trauma Ghost has had to deal with along with living in poverty, makes it more difficult for him. When he cuts off his high tops so he can run in comfort, gets teased, and then steals some shoes, it is understandable why he made a bad choice at the end of the day. When he has to correct the problem, he grows as a person and learns to deal with different challenges in a healthier way.

I like off-the-wall characters, but I thought the track team with all its unique issues was a bit far-fetched. Diabetics don't usually lose both legs and a person dying in childbirth is rare. The Olympic champion, now taxi-driver, who can take a half a day off work to deal with a delinquent didn't seem probable either. The plot seemed a bit forced in spots but this doesn't detract from touching scenes and compassionate characters the reader can empathize with in the end. The abrupt, cliff-hanger ending sets up for a sequel.

4 Smileys

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