Review by New York Times Review
CASTLE CRENSHAW, or Ghost, as he has nicknamed himself, begins his story by telling about the man who holds the world record for blowing up balloons with his nose. Ghost is funny, sharp and real, spitting out sunflower seeds along with world-records trivia as he watches a track team practice at the local park. Like many Guinness-obsessed kids, Ghost dreams of being the best at something too. But five pages into "Ghost," Jason Reynolds's new middle-grade novel, Ghost's stream-of-consciousness narrative drifts into the secret that has taken over his life : the story of the day he learned how fast he can run, fleeing his apartment with his mother as his father shot at them. The revelation will hit many readers hard, but Ghost tells it in the same matter-of-fact tone he uses to talk about sunflower seeds or the kids he sees working on running - which perplexes him because running was never anything he had to practice. Ghost is cynical, dragged down by the weight of his past. When he hears Coach telling his elite track team, the Defenders, that running could lead to a college scholarship, Ghost talks back in his head. "Don't nobody go to college for free to run no races." But when the cocky sprinter Lu gets ready to run, Ghost lines up along-side, nearly beating him, and Coach offers a life-changing invitation to join the team. Ghost's transformation is slow and believable. At first, he lacks the gear and the tenacity to perform well. At night, Ghost sleeps near the door, in case he and his mom have to run again. At school, he gets in trouble and struggles to contain his fear and anger. As Ghost puts it, "I got a lot of scream inside." Over time, training produces results. Anyone who's felt gravel crunch under their spikes will recognize Coach's workouts - the exhausting fartleks and distance runs, the competitive banter. Athletes understand that one step forward is often followed by two steps back, and Ghost's emotional strength comes around more slowly than his speed. Frustrated by practicing in old high-tops, he shoplifts a pair of high-end running shoes. But the silver bullets, as Ghost calls them, put more weight on his spirit than they take off his feet. Ghost's developing relationship with the runners in his life ultimately propels him forward. He learns that Coach, too, grew up with an addict. Recognizing the connection, Coach tells his new runner, "Trouble is, you can't run away from yourself. ... Ain't nobody that fast." Though this novel belongs to Ghost, his teammates are fully realized characters with dreams, histories, gifts and imperfections of their own. The girls are never pushed to the side. Patina, especially, not only shines on the track but asserts herself in Coach's car one day, refusing to give up her shotgun seat so the boys won't be crowded in back. Readers who connect with these other runners will be thrilled to know that "Ghost" is the first in a promised series from Reynolds, each featuring a different narrator from the Defenders. As for "Ghost," it's easy to praise Reynolds's vivid depiction of life in Ghost's urban neighborhood as one that's challenging and full of warmth, relationships and hope. But this book's biggest strength is Ghost himself. Reynolds has created a character whose journey is so genuine that he's worthy of a place alongside Ramona and Joey Pigza on the bookshelves where our most beloved, imperfect characters live. KATE MESSNER is the author of "The Seventh Wish," the Ranger in Time series and other books for young readers.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [September 14, 2016]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Castle Ghost Cranshaw has been running for three years, ever since the night his father shot a gun at him and his mother. When he gets recruited by a local track coach for a championship team, they strike a deal: if Ghost can stop getting into fights at school, he can run for the Defenders, but one altercation and he's gone. Despite Ghost's best intentions, everyone always has something to say about his raggedy shoes, homemade haircut, ratty clothes, or his neighborhood, and he doesn't last 24 hours without a brawl. Will Coach and his mom give him another chance to be part of something bigger than himself, or is he simply destined to explode? With his second fantastic middle-grade novel of the year (As Brave as You, 2016), the ferociously talented Reynolds perfectly captures both the pain and earnest longing of a young boy. The first in the four-book Track series, this is raw and lyrical, and as funny as it is heartbreaking. It tackles issues such as theft, bullying, and domestic violence with candor and bravery, while opening a door for empathy and discussion. An absolute must-read for anyone who has ever wondered how fast you must be to run away from yourself. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Is anyone else putting out so many stellar books so quickly? The author of The Boy in the Black Suit and All American Boys (both 2015) keeps dashing along.--Worthington, Becca Copyright 2016 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Reynolds (As Brave As You) uses a light hand to delve into topics that include gun violence, class disparity, and bullying in this compelling series opener. Seventh-grader Castle Cranshaw, nicknamed Ghost, knows nothing about track when a former Olympian recruits him as a sprinter for one of the city's youth teams. As far as Ghost is concerned, "whoever invented track got the whole gun means go thing right," something he learned firsthand when his father tried to shoot Ghost and his mother in their apartment three years prior. The trauma has had ripple effects on Ghost, including angry outbursts ("I was the boy.... with all the scream inside"), altercations at school, stealing, and lying. Joining the track team provides new friends, goals, and an opportunity for Ghost to move beyond his past. Ghost is a well-meaning, personable narrator whose intense struggles are balanced by a love of world records, sunflower seeds, and his mother. Coach's relationship with Ghost develops into a surrogate father-son scenario, adding substantial emotional resonance and humor to the mix. Ages 10-up. Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-9-Guy Lockard has assumed the mantle of narrator-of-choice for Reynolds's fiction: Ghost (2016 National Book Award finalist) is Lockard's third Reynolds title, following As Brave as You and Rashad's chapters in All American Boys. Here, as seventh grader Castle "Ghost" Crenshaw, Lockard performs with excitable bravado, ruminating honesty, and trash-talking speed. Ghost runs fast with good reason, having escaped his father, who chased him and his mother with a loaded gun. Three years later, Ghost's mother works hard to keep him safe, while Ghost tries never to ask for more than she can give. His temper, however, too often keeps him fleeing from trouble of his own making. When the track coach recognizes his immense talent, Ghost's cocky arrogance initially gets in his way. How he finds his tremendous stride is a realistic, exhilarating story for all young audiences (look for a wink-wink to Reynolds's friend and fellow author Christopher Myers, son of the legendary Walter Dean Myers, one of Reynolds's inspirations). VERDICT An ideal choice for even the most reluctant readers. Libraries should start building this "Track" (Ghost is the first of a series) immediately.-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
When it comes to providing mirrors for contemporary African American teens, Reynolds (When I Was the Greatest, rev. 1/14; The Boy in the Black Suit, rev. 3/15) has proven himself to be an emerging leader. His latest offering is the first in a projected series about four middle-school athletes and their efforts to better themselves, on and off the track. The first leg of this literary relay belongs to our title character. Castle Ghost Cranshaw is a young man with a taste for sunflower seeds, Guinness World Records, and people-watching; he also has a proclivity for getting into trouble, fighting, and running, stemming from the night his father (now in prison) pulled a gun on him and his mother. When Ghost happens upon the citywide track team, the Defenders, at practice and impulsively bests its fastest sprinter, the coach sees potential in the seventh grader. Ghosts path to seeing the same potential in himself is littered with stumbling blocks, including a pair of expensive silver running shoes Ghost cant afford but is convinced will help him run faster. Reynolds has created a wonderfully dynamic character in Ghost; his first-person narrative is one with which young readers will readily identify. Conflicting emotions are presented honestly and without judgmentwhile Ghost works through the trauma of his fathers violent act, he is also able to hold on to positive memories. Reynoldss introduction of the series charactersGhost, Lu, Patina, and Sunnywill have readers rooting for the entire Defenders team. eboni njoku (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Castle Ghost Cranshaw feels like hes been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his momand used it.His dads been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many altercations he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, hes fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid altercations. But Ma doesnt have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly lightand his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghosts narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow newbies on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghosts world are described as such. An endearing protagonist runsnbsp;the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promisingnbsp;relay. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.