Lu by Jason Renolds

Lu, by Jason Reynolds, was published in 2018 by Atheneum. It is the sequel to Sunny.

Rating: 3/5                                                           

I was worried that Lu, despite being the last book in the series, would continue the same formula and tropes of the previous three books, which culminated in my dislike of Sunny. However, while the book reads very much like all the others (character-focused, with some sort of familial trouble/angst, and occasional odd quirks), thankfully Reynolds finally ditches his tired ending that he used three times before and did something new and fresh with this last book.

The ending is really what pulled this book up for me, because while it certainly isn’t bad, I couldn’t get into Lu’s head at all, much like I couldn’t with Sunny. There were moments that shone through, such as Lu’s softer side and his interactions with his parents, but then there were other moments that just confused me, like everything with Kelvin and his mysterious turnaround, as well as the vague descriptions of marks on his arm. Was Reynolds implying that he was a drug addict, or a victim of domestic violence, or what? What did the marks on his arms have to do with his bullying, and why did he stop when they were gone?

However, the ending I loved because it did exactly what I have wanted these books to do since I read Ghost—it ended with a defining character moment, not some cheap cliffhanger that doesn’t resolve anything. The ending of this book is fabulous, if a bit cheesy, and even if I couldn’t really relate to Lu, I still could see all the ways he grew throughout the book.

The Track series was a bit hit-or-miss for me, but they have the air and charm that I’m sure kids will love, and I liked that each book focused on a different person and how unique each character was. I also really enjoyed the voice and tone of the characters and the style Reynolds has. I hated the endings, and Sunny was a low spot, but the other three books, especially Ghost and Patina, are great.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2EJOHae

Sunny by Jason Reynolds

Sunny, by Jason Reynolds, was published in 2018 by Atheneum. It is the sequel to Patina.

Rating: 2/5

I enjoyed the first two Track books, Ghost and Patina, but Sunny is the weakest one so far. It’s messy and all-over-the-place, and I get that it’s supposed to be inside of Sunny’s head, but half the time he’s just making random noises and talking about random things. Maybe that’s appealing to some, but not to me.

There’s a lack of depth to the book, too, that seems out of place, especially when comparing it to the previous two books. There’s some sad stuff going on, but there’s really not that much to the book at all. Half of it is just Sunny making sound effects and thinking about dancing. Yes—those parts of the book really bothered me! The scenes with Sunny and his dad were good, and the handling of all the unspoken (and spoken) expectations that Sunny is trying to fill, when he also wants to strike out on his own, were good. But I like tightly-focused, tightly-plotted books, and Sunny was just too stream-of-consciousness for me.

I also am growing very irritated of Reynolds’s penchant to ending the books right in the middle of a track meet (and then starting the next book with the resolution of that track meet). It’s hokey, and doesn’t really accomplish much. There’s no sense of closure or growth by cutting off the book right in the character’s shining moment. Instead, we’re left to wonder “Did he do it?” and there’s no rush of victory that is so great to feel when reading a book that’s so character-focused as this one.

I think I might still get the last track book, just to finish the series, but Sunny was ultimately a disappointment. Too random, too noisy, and just not my cup of tea.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2GFdP43

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Patina, by Jason Reynolds, was published in 2017 by Atheneum. It is the sequel to Ghost.

Rating: 3/5

Though Patina is the sequel to Ghost, it’s not really necessary to have read Ghost first, though it does give you added insight to some of the characters. I like the whole idea Reynolds is going for: a book centered on each of the four central characters. If the pattern holds, each one will take place after the one before it. Patina starts where Ghost left off, finishing the race that Reynolds ended Ghost with.

Reynolds ends this book with another race, and yet again ends the book before we see the results. I like it as much as I liked it in Ghost, which is to say, not at all, and I hope it’s not a sign of a pattern.

Anyway, I don’t think I liked Patina as much as I liked GhostGhost tugged at the heartstrings a little bit more, though I liked the sibling relationship in this book and the conversations about Patina’s white aunt. And I liked that Reynolds didn’t go for the standard bully story in school, but simply had complex characters with different motivations, with Patina trying to understand their actions. But Ghost really pulled at me, whereas Patina was good, but not as immediately connecting as I found Ghost.

I do, however, still really like this series and am eager to read the next two books about Sunny and Lu. I’ve seen enough of their characters in these two books that I want to know more about their lives—which, I guess, is part of what Reynolds is trying to do. And I love the uniqueness of each character, and how their lives are so different in so many ways, and yet they can come together with the common interesting of running. Unity in diversity is a great message to deliver.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic

You can buy this book here:

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost, by Jason Reynolds, was published in 2016 by Atheneum.

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 tries to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Rating: 4/5

Ghost is a book I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, but ended up loving. Ghost has a great voice as the first-person narrator, and it’s easy to get swept up in the book. It’s a fast read, but the pacing is good and the balance of light and dark is perfect: there’s angst, but there’s enough healing and light-heartedness to cut through it.

Ghost is the main character, but it’s Coach who’s the real star of the show: he pretty much becomes Ghost’s much-needed father-figure, helping him own up to his mistakes, but also showing compassion when necessary. He’s also not afraid to share weakness or past hardships, which makes him the best sort of adult character. Ghost himself, as I said, has a great voice, and everything he does is completely believable, to the point where I’m so caught up that I can’t even get annoyed at the dumb teenage things he does sometimes. And I love how all the chapter titles mention world records until the last one, to especially highlight how important it is.

Speaking of the last chapter, I do wish that there had been more resolution to the ending. And I know that it’s not really important who won the race, and that the point is that Ghost got there and he’s ready to put the past behind him, but…I kinda wanted to see the race unfold! That’s pretty much my only complaint about the novel: the ending could have been better, in my opinion.

Ghost stars an endearing protagonist, a fantastic adult figure in Coach, and several other fleshed-out side characters (who, I believe, will star in their own books). It’s a fast-paced, fast-read of a book and it’s mostly perfect, except for the ending. Still, I’m ready and willing for the next books to fall into my lap.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Middle Grade

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2k8mQ99