World record-loving Castle Cranshaw, aka Ghost, discovered his talent for running the night his dad pulled a gun on him and his mum. His dad has been in prison ever since and with troubles at school, life for Ghost is heading in only one direction. Then he meets Coach, someone who sees something unfamiliar in Ghost…promise. Ghost has no interest in track and field but could running be the thing that he needs to help get his life back on track in every sense of the word…
The first book in Jason Reynolds’ 'Track' series is a brilliant and uplifting read full of humour, heart and the realities of life. Reynolds combines school, sport and life lessons into a read that will have readers racing through the pages quicker than Ghost can sprint. With a storyline centred around sprinting it should come as no surprise that Ghost is a fast-paced story but that doesn’t mean that it should be read at pace. There are plenty of lessons to be learnt and realisations along the way as Ghost, with the help of some brilliant father figures in the form of Coach and local store owner Mr Charles, begins to understand what is important in life.
More than just a sports story, Ghost is about the highs and lows of life. Ghost is a boy dealing with the trauma suffered a few years earlier and who is trying to break free from the stereotypical views that threaten to determine his life. Ghost is the kid who gets grief at school for his Mum-made haircut, who wears the non-labelled clothes, only has enough money to buy chips at lunch and who lives in the wrong neighbourhood. He’s not unfamiliar with trouble and poor decisions yet he is incredibly easy to root for. Yes he is flawed, moral dilemmas pose their own challenges and he is frustrated by the hand he has been dealt but we see a kid who is kind, caring, does have a conscience - especially when it comes to his mum - and after discovering running is determined to sprint his way to better things.
With the help of no nonsense, straight-talking and home-truth-telling Coach and his fellow track team mates - particularly fellow ‘newbies’ Sunny, Lu and Patina - Ghost finds himself in a position where he has something positive going on and whilst it might not be possible to run from where you came from there is always the possibility to run towards where you want to be.
Instantly likeable from the very first page, Ghost tells his story with humour, heart and honesty, it feels like you are sat at the track and eating sunflower seeds with him as he shares his life. Sport, passions, hobbies and interests have the power to change lives and can provide the much-needed open door when all the others are closed. Ghost’s story is testament to this and he could easily be the relatable voice and inspiration young people need to work hard at their talents, to persevere in the face of adversity and to never give up when the odds are stacked against.
Ghost can be read by any confident reader of nine and over but it is worth giving careful consideration to which children’s hands it lands in. Reynolds deals with gun violence, domestic abuse, poverty and drug use to varying degrees. Whilst nothing is explicit and it is all age appropriate, it may come as a shock to some children and reading with an adult would be advised.
If like me you loved this read then Ghost’s ‘newbie' teammates star and share their own stories in self-titled books; look out for Sunny, Patina and Lu.
Recommended for 10+.