Time for a confession. I might rock my cardie and be great at winkling out what book a fifth grader is talking about that has, like, a bear in a zoo that talks (actually The One and Only Ivan – not a bear, not a zoo), but I am not an athlete. I do not run unless I’m being chased by something scary. Ever. Any love I feel for sports is mostly attached to the occasional viewing of the Olympics, listening to Cubs games, and doing things I’m bad at – kayaking, basketball, biking, hiking.
Most of the time, I’m not even all that interested in reading about sports. I can read things, and sometimes I even kind of like it (The Boys in the Boat), but there are wide swathes of sports kid lit I’ve never come close to. Still, I sometimes put books on my list and wait for the holds to come in, and once in a while, something as vivid and powerful as Ghost pops up at the top of the stack.
I was about three chapters in and thinking about other things when I set it down. Days later, I picked it up, thinking I’d just take it back without finishing it – I have more than 15 books in my stack right now—but then I thought I’d read just a chapter while I was waiting for something. And soon the chapters began to fly, and Castle Cranshaw leapt from the pages as if he were already clearing hurdles, full of promise and desperation and feeling. He makes mistakes. He makes a lot of mistakes, but he is lucky enough to have people around him who look out for him, even when he isn’t 100% sure they’re on his side. He reminds me of a lot of kids I’ve known who wake up every day not knowing what the struggle is going to be, but sure that something sucky is going to happen.
I would love to read more books like this, even if they are all about track, which is saying something big for me. The characters are so well drawn, the feelings so intense – I will be watching for the sequels, whether it’s to learn what happens to Ghost or to find out more about his friends. Thank you, Jason Reynolds, for pushing a slow non-athlete off the block and into something new.
Ghost, Jason Reynolds