50 pages 1 hour read

Jason Reynolds

Lu

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Lu is a 2019 novel written by American author Jason Reynolds and published by Simon & Schuster. Lu is the fourth and final installment in the New York Times bestselling Track series, in which each volume follows a different member of an elite middle-school track team.

This book for young adults follows Lu Richardson as he learns to have integrity, jump hurdles without fear of messing up, and be the big brother he wants to be. This study guide refers to the Atheneum Books for Young Readers edition.

Plot Summary

Lu Richardson was born with albinism, and his mother was not supposed to be able to have children at all. So, when Lu learns that he is going to be a big brother, he feels like lightning has struck his family twice. His parents, Christina and Gordon aka Goose, ask him whether he wants to go to their upcoming appointment to find out the baby’s sex or go to track practice. Lu opts to go to practice, where Coach helps Lu perfect the 110-meter hurdle. After an embarrassing fall during the last meet, Lu is determined to be successful in jumping the hurdles. Despite Coach’s encouragement, each time Lu reaches the hurdle, his mind gets the better of him and he stops short.

Before his parents get home from their appointment, Lu admits to himself that he wants the baby to be a boy, because he wants to know what he would look like if he did not have albinism. When his parents reveal the baby is a girl, Lu fails to hide his disappointment. His mother explains that his little sister will look up to Lu no matter what.

Lu tells Goose about seeing a former track member with Coach earlier that day. The former member is called the Wolf, and he has become addicted to drugs. Goose admits that he has a connection with the Wolf and his substance use disorder. When Goose was young, he had a debilitating stutter. His track teammates, led by Coach, teased him so much about his stutter that Goose eventually quit the track team. Not sure how else to gain social status, Goose started dealing drugs. This led to the Wolf’s drug addiction as well as the death of Coach’s father. Goose explains that he now works every day in his job as a rehab recruiter to make up for the harm he caused. Goose tells Lu that he sees potential in Lu and gives Lu the responsibility of choosing his baby sister’s name.

Lu thinks about his own struggles with insecurity, and how he tries to instill confidence through his appearance. He comes face to face again with his former childhood bully, Kelvin Jefferson, during a delivery for his mother’s fruit sculpture business. At practice, his co-captain, Aaron, teases Lu about the amount of sunscreen he needs to wear because of his albinism. Lu and Aaron get into a shoving match, and Coach punishes them with extra laps.

Coach teaches Lu a counting method to surmount the hurdles. Coach tells Lu that he does not need to see the hurdles to know that they are there, and that he can jump over them by trusting himself and counting. After struggling a few times, Lu succeeds.

Lu’s friend Ghost tells him that Coach’s father sold his Olympic gold medal to buy the drugs that ended up killing him. Lu realizes that his father may have the gold medal. He confronts Goose that night, who admits to having kept the gold medal in part because he was so jealous of and resentful towards Coach. Goose explains that now, years later, it feels too hard to return the medal after all this time. Lu convinces Goose to do the right thing and return the medal at practice the next day. Lu is furious with his father and questioning his respect for him, but Lu’s mother encourages him to have compassion and understanding.

Goose drives Lu to practice that day and Lu watches from afar while Goose and Coach talk. Goose thanks Lu for encouraging him to tackle a hurdle he had long been afraid of and tells Lu that he and Coach are on good terms now.

Goose takes Lu to a local basketball court. Lu is surprised to see Coach Whit arrive soon after them, and then Goose explains that Whit is going to read a letter to her brother, the Wolf, asking him to consider going to rehab. Goose tells Lu to go wait for him on the benches, and as he walks over, he sees Kelvin Jefferson already sitting on the bench.

Instead of running away, Lu decides to go sit with Kelvin. The two sit in pleasant silence, and Kelvin shares his sunflower seeds with Lu. Lu notices that Kelvin no longer has black and blue marks running up and down his arms and remembering what his parents have taught him about having compassion for others, Lu silently decides to forgive Kelvin. As they watch Coach Whit read her letter to her brother, Lu realizes that he wants to be the kind of big brother that is always there for his sister; someone that she can look up to and count on. The Wolf decides to go to rehab, and Goose and Lu escort him and Whit to the rehab center.

At the season’s championship meeting, Coach Whit informs the team that Coach is unable to make it. Coach’s baby son is in the hospital after a severe asthma attack. The team and their parents rush to the hospital. They greet a surprised Coach, who tells them that his son will be okay.

Coach shows his athletes his gold medal, and then shows them that he cut the medal’s ribbon into strips. Without revealing where the medal has been, Coach says that getting the medal back reminded him of all the people that helped him succeed. He says that he cut the ribbon up that morning to show his athletes how proud he is of them, and that they are all connected.

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