It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Jason Reynolds and his books (The Boy in the Black Suit – All American Boys – Miles Morales – Long Way Down.) I cannot say enough good things about his writing. I chose his book Ghost as our featured title for the school year and it has made my year so great! I love seeing how enthusiastic my students are about all of Jason’s books, not just Ghost. With Sunny,the third book in the Track series, coming out tomorrow, I realized I never reviewed Ghost or Patina. Which is absurd because I love them so, so, so much. So, today is the day! I’m sharing my love for the first three Track books in one post 🙂 I’ll give you a few thoughts on each individual title and then some general series love!
Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?
Obviously I adore this book. I chose it for our featured title! A few reasons why:
- I love, love, loved the voice. Jason is so great at this.
- Ghost is such a great character. I knew my students would like him and want to know his story.
- It’s quick! A fast paced read that keeps students of all reading abilities engaged throughout.
- The track element. I liked that it was a sport popular at our school, but one that we don’t see many stories about.
Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?
Yay for a girl main character! Especially a girl in a series that started with a boy! This is actually a pretty big deal. It isn’t something I see very often, if at all. There are so many books that feature male athletes. Far fewer with female athletes. And even fewer with female athletes where the main plot point isn’t a romance. (Don’t get me wrong, I love those books, too!) And, like Ghost, Patty is a character you are invested in from the get-go.
Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But Sunny’s life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.
With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard hits of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. As Sunny practices the discus, learning when to let go at just the right time, he’ll let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside, perhaps just in time.
Oh, Sunny. As with Ghost and Patina, he went straight to my heart. But there’s just something about him that made him my favorite! The reader gets to know him through his diary entries. They were so honest and heartbreaking. Seeing all the things that Sunny is dealing with, the secrets he keeps, the ways he tries to please his father… it made him finding his voice and speaking up so very powerful. I cannot wait for my students to read this one.
General Series Thoughts:
- I love how these books really show you that you can’t really know what’s going on with someone just by watching. We see each character in a surface way through the other characters’ books. It’s so interesting to have more of them revealed through their own story.
- These books do such an incredible job of showing students how to deal with all the crazy messed up things they have to deal with. I especially felt this with Sunny when he explains why he writes in his diary and how it helps. I am blown away with how Jason shows his young readers that it’s okay to feel the way they feel and then how to deal with it in a healthy way while not being at all preachy.
- It’s clear that Jason writes with his readers in mind. I mean, hopefully most authors do. But Jason does it on a deeper, more authentic level than any other author I’ve read. His books are just so purposeful while still being totally entertaining and just good stories.
- I kind of already mentioned this but it’s so important so I’ll say it again: the validation. Jason doesn’t talk down to his readers and he doesn’t pass judgement. He shows that it’s okay to feel angry or sad or whatever it is your feeling. He shows that making a bad decision doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t make amends. I think it’s so important for young readers to see this. To see that they matter and their thoughts and feelings are important.
Basically I just love these books so hard. You can see more about why in this Twitter thread I posted after finishing Sunny. If you haven’t read a Jason Reynolds book yet you 100% need to. Seriously. They are ALL that good.