64 pages 2 hours read

Jason Reynolds

Ghost

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Ghost is a 2016 novel by American author Jason Reynolds. A 2016 National Books Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature, it is the first installment in Reynolds’s series about the members of a junior track team. 

Plot Summary

Ghost tells the story of Castle Cranshaw, a troubled youth who is trying to cope with a traumatic childhood. When he joins the Defenders track team, he learns that he does not have to let his past define him. 

Castle lives in a poor neighborhood called Glass Manor. As the novel opens, he is angry and directionless. When Castle was a child, his drunken father shot at him and his mother with a pistol. They escaped and hid in the storeroom of Mr. Charles’s local market. Castle’s anger and lack of self-control are largely due to the trauma of being attacked by his father and then losing him after he is sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Castle’s time at school is an ongoing series of bad grades and fights with other students. One day after school, Castle sees a track team practicing. After he watches for a while, he challenges one of their fastest sprinters to a race and holds his own. Coach Brody invites Castle to join the team and then sets to convincing his mother to let him. His mother agrees, provided that Castle stays out of trouble. 

Castle gets in a fight with a school bully named Brandon the next day, but Coach picks him up and agrees not to tell his mother. At practice that afternoon, one of the runners mocks Castle’s high-top shoes. That night, he cuts the tops off of them, which only leads to worse teasing at school the next day. He then steals a pair of expensive running shoes from a sporting goods store. 

Coach takes the new runners out to a Chinese restaurant, a yearly tradition. At the dinner, Castle learns that each of them has a troubled past and secrets. He begins to feel as if he belongs on the team, and the sense of having a group helps with his anger issues. 

Coach learns that Castle stole the shoes. In the conversation that results, Coach tells him that he grew up in the same neighborhood, and that he also lost his father to drugs. Coach and Castle share a bond over their pasts that the others don’t understand. But Coach—who won a gold medal in the Olympics—also makes it clear that if he can overcome his past, so can Castle. He takes Castle to the store to apologize and then buys the shoes for him. 

At the novel’s conclusion, Castle is at the starting line, preparing to run his first race. His mother, aunt, cousin, and teammates are all supporting him. For the first time, Castle feels hopeful for his future. The novel ends as the starting gun fires. 

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