This is a four-part series by Jason Reynolds and I actually already wrote my review of the first book in the series, but they all turned out to be so short, and so interconnected, that I decided to write a review of all four books in one go.
It starts out with Ghost, whose name is actually Castle, but everyone calls him Ghost. He discovers a local high school track team after school one day, decides he can run faster than anyone else there, and almost does. The coach of the team (whom everyone simply calls “Coach”) convinces Ghost to join the team, even though Ghost doesn’t think his mom will ever go for it. Coach convinces his mom to let Ghost join the team on the condition that he get his grades up.
Ghost, like most teenage boys, has trouble with his temper, which has gotten him in plenty of trouble at school, but Coach makes sure to work with him to get his temper under control and his grades up.
Ghost joins the team around the same time three other students join: Patina, Sunny, and Lu. In the first book, Coach takes them all out to dinner so they can all get to know each other a little better and they all share something personal about themselves. Ghost shares the fact that his father had a temper of his own, would beat his mom, and one night took a gun and set out to kill them. They survived by hiding in the back room of their local convenience store.
Patina (Patty) lives with her aunt and uncle. Her dad died when she was young, her mom took it hard, eating so many sweets to drown her grief that she gave herself diabetes and had to have both her legs amputated. That makes it kind of hard to take care of her two daughters, especially since she still has to go in regularly for dialysis, so Patty and her little sister stay with their aunt and uncle. They’re good people, but Patty still does most of the work of raising her little sister so they won’t be too much of a burden on their aunt and uncle. She does things like braid her sister’s hair on Sunday mornings, tell her stories, and help make dinner and wash up afterwards, all while making sure her homework is done and she’s kicking butt on the track team.
Sunny was my least favorite, mostly because his stream of consciousness tended to wander around a little more than I really wanted to listen to. Sunny’s mom died giving birth to him, so he doesn’t celebrate his birthday because it’s her deathday. His dad seems to hold it against Sunny personally and tells Sunny he has to be a world-class runner because his mom was on her way to being a world-class runner before she died giving birth to him so he has to maintain her legacy. Talk about pressure. Sunny is a really good runner, but it’s not what he wants to do. He finally gets up the nerve to quit, but Coach talks him into switching to shot put. He’s not very good at that, but he’ll get there.
Lu is the only one living with both his parents. He was always told he was something of a miracle because his parents were told they couldn’t get pregnant, so he was always expecting to be an only child, but the book starts off with his mom announcing that she’s pregnant. It takes Lu a while to wrap his head around the idea (and a little while longer to wrap his head around the idea of having a little sister, instead of a little brother), but once he does, he’s really excited about having a little sister to whom he can show the world.
Lu, like so many other young boys, idolizes his dad, even though he knows he used to sell drugs when he was young, before he got his act together. His book is about Lu learning and coming to terms with the fact that the drugs his dad sold had very real, very permanent consequences for people Lu knows and loves now.
Aside from Patina, Guy Lockard narrates every book in this series and he does a phenomenal job. Apparently he knew Reynolds in school and I hope he narrates more of his books, because I cannot wait to listen to him again.
What did you read/listen to this week? Any other YA series worth checking out?