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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Ghost by Jason Reynolds has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Track” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Seventh-grader Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw hasn’t had an easy life. When he was in fourth grade, his alcoholic father shot a pistol at him and his mom. Ghost can’t forget the horrible night he and his mother fled their house in their pajamas and took refuge in Mr. Charles’ store. That’s how Ghost learned to run, out of necessity.

Dad is now serving 10 years in prison. Ghost’s mom works in a hospital cafeteria, and they usually eat food she brings home from work. They live in a shady part of town called Glass Manor. Ghost often gets teased for his old and ill-fitting clothes or the haircuts his mother gives him. He gets in a lot of fights at school, especially with a bully named Brandon. He spends most afternoons roaming on his own after buying a bag of sunflower seeds from Mr. Charles’ store.

One afternoon, Ghost sees a track team practicing and sits down to watch. Ghost thinks of himself as a basketball guy and doesn’t know or care much about running. Convinced he can beat the fastest team member, he walks down to the track and lines up beside the boy. The coach yells at him at first, explaining this is one of the most elite teams in the city. To be a Defender, runners have to be the best of the best. When Ghost won’t leave, the coach agrees to give him one chance to race. Ghost beats the boy, even in his jeans and ratty shoes. The coach asks Ghost if he’d like to join the team.

Coach is a cab driver by day. He gives Ghost a ride home, where he convinces Ghost’s mom that he’ll look out for the boy. Mom is skeptical but agrees, hoping the sport will keep Ghost out of trouble. The next day, Brandon starts teasing Ghost. Ghost fights back and is sent to the principal’s office. The principal starts to give him a suspension but softens when he learns Brandon started the brawl. The principal suspends Ghost for the rest of the day. Rather than tell his mother what’s happened, Ghost says he needs to call his uncle to come get him. He calls the coach, who reluctantly plays along and picks him up.

Coach works Ghost hard on the track. As Ghost watches the other kids on the team in their workout clothes and running shoes, he begins to feel inferior. He tries to cut his one and only pair of high tops down to shorter shoes, but they end up looking ridiculous.

Kids in one of his classes mock him for the shoes, so he leaves school. He wanders into a sporting goods store and tries on a pair of expensive silver running shoes. On a whim, he sneaks them into his backpack and leaves the store. His teammates are impressed with his new shoes, and he feels more like he fits in.

Ghost gets to know his teammates a little better, particularly when the coach takes the “newbies” out for Chinese food. Before Coach lets them eat, he makes each one share a secret. One boy talks about his mom dying while giving birth to him. Another girl tells about being adopted by a white family, although she and her sister are African-American. Ghost finally feels secure enough to admit that his own father is in jail for trying to shoot him and his mom. As the coach had hoped, the new teammates begin to bond. Even though Ghost never imagined wanting to join a track team, he now feels a true sense of belonging.

The first track meet is imminent. The coach begins handing out uniforms, but he fails to give one to Ghost. Instead, he gives Ghost a folded up piece of paper. It is a picture of Ghost taken from the sporting goods store’s security camera. Coach says when he went to pick up the uniforms, he saw it hanging in the store with the label “shoplifter.” He threatens to tell Ghost’s mom.

Ghost begs him not to tell, saying Coach doesn’t understand what he’s been through and what it’s like to live where he does. Coach then admits he grew up in Ghost’s neighborhood. Despite having an addict father, Coach had gone to the Olympics and won a gold medal. His father later sold his gold medal for a $20 drug fix. He overdosed on those drugs and died.

Coach allows Ghost to stay on the team, but the boy doesn’t get a uniform and has to practice in his old shoes. He also makes Ghost clean out his filthy cab. Before the first meet, Coach takes Ghost to the sporting goods store and has him apologize for stealing the shoes. Coach pays for them and gives them back to Ghost, but he vows to make the boy regret it if he ever does anything that stupid again.

Coach also gives Ghost his uniform, and the boy feels overwhelmed with pride. Ghost’s mom, aunt and cousin come to watch his first track meet, beaming. Ghost sees Brandon on a competing team, and both boys are surprised to see that the other runs. Ghost’s teammates stand up for him and praise his ability in front of Brandon. They encourage and support him as Coach allows him to run the coveted 100-meter event.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Mom works hard to support herself and her son. She lets Ghost join track to keep him out of trouble, and she’s supportive and proud of his efforts.

Coach sees and addresses Ghost’s potential. He teaches Ghost the value of teamwork and urges him to push himself, emotionally and physically.

Coach sometimes covers for Ghost so the boy won’t get in trouble with his mom or the school. The principal reduces Ghost’s suspension when he realizes a bully picked a fight with Ghost. Mr. Charles develops a rapport with Ghost and encourages him to make good choices.

Profanity/Violence

The words p---, butt, freakin’ and suck each appear a time or two.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol/Drug Addiction: Ghost’s dad is an alcoholic who tries to shoot Ghost and his mom. Coach’s dad was a drug addict who sold Coach’s Olympic gold medal for $20 worth of drugs. He died of an overdose.

Crime/Disobedience: Ghost fights back when teased at school, so he has a file full of offenses. He steals a pair of running shoes after he starts feeling inferior around the other kids on his team.

Deception/Omission: Ghost lies to the principal about Coach being his uncle so he can avoid telling his mom he’s in trouble. Coach pretends to be Ghost’s uncle to help the boy. Coach keeps Ghost’s fighting and shoplifting a secret from Ghost’s mom but still forces Ghost to feel the consequences of his poor choices.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

10 and up

Author

Jason Reynolds

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Athenaeum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Released

On Video

Year Published

2016

Awards

National Book Awards Finalist, 2016; School Library Journal Top Books, 2016; Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature, 2016 and others

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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