⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ (5/5 see book reviews)

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I picked up this book on a whim at a children and young adult bookshop in Niwot, Colorado called “The Wandering Jellyfish”—a cute store in the old Niwot Tribune building on main street, complete with a antique cash register like the one in F.A.O. Swartz in Home Alone II.

This book is the first in a series of young adult fiction stories focused on running—Reynolds’s Track series. This volume follows Castle Crenshaw, the eponymous “Ghost”, as he joins the city track team, and—in a beautiful irony—learns how to face his problems rather than run from them.

This book had me from the first paragraph:

Check this out. This dude named Andrew Dahl holds the world record for blowing up the most balloons…with his nose. Yeah. That’s true.

– Jason Reynolds, Ghost

This has everything I’m looking for in young adult literature:

  • An honest yet wondrous worldview—it has a lean that tells you who the narrator is from the jump.
  • It’s true to how young people speak and not too “fellow kids.”
  • There’s some adolescent gross-out factor here, which I appreciate.

The Ghost character reminded me vaguely of Miles Morales from the Marvel animated feature film SpiderMan: Into the Multiverse. And maybe that’s no coincidence as the author also penned the novel Miles Morales: Spider-Man.

This book was a National Book Award Finalist for young people’s literature in 2016.

And the writing is wonderful. I reread the scene of Ghost’s panic attack in the storeroom of the market in his neighborhood—anticipating typing it in this review—eager to get the feel of writing it myself.

The language is perfect—iambic and musical—concrete language: a long flowing sentence, four staccato sentences—chokes of panic—and the final metaphor that nails the gravity of the scene.

Like how when you at the swimming pool on the hottest day of summer, and you jump in and it’s cool, and then you take one step too far and suddenly you’re in the deep end, and things ain’t so cool no more. Because you can’t swim. That’s how I felt. Like I was drowning. Like I was filling up with water. Like this place, this weird little room that had saved my life, now felt like it was gonna take it.

– Jason Reynolds, Ghost

Flowing, smart, painful, playful, and laugh-out loud funny—although I picked up this book on a whim, I had a hard time putting it down. I finished this short read in a couple of hot afternoons on my front porch copying the main character by eating sunflower seeds as I read.

Details

  • Title: Ghost
  • Author: Jason Reynolds
  • Pages: 208
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
  • ISBN: 1481450166
  • Genre: Young Adult Fiction