45 pages 1 hour read

Jason Reynolds

Patina

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Patina is a 2017 novel written by American author Jason Reynolds and published by Simon & Schuster. Patina is the second book in Reynolds’s Track series. This book for young adults explores Patina “Patty” Jones’s struggles to navigate her passion for running, the things she is running for and from, family issues, and a new school. This study guide refers to the Atheneum Books for Young Readers edition.

Plot Summary

Patina is about a young runner, Patina “Patty” Jones, as she copes with the lingering effects of childhood trauma. Over the course of the text, Patty navigates living with adoptive family, her mother’s health issues, helping raise her younger sister, running as a teammate instead of a solo runner, and a group project.

Patty and her younger sister, Maddy, live with their aunt and uncle, Momly and Uncle Tony. Patty lost her father at a young age when he died suddenly in his sleep. Her mother, already struggling with a diabetes diagnosis, began coping with the loss of her husband by eating increasing amounts of sugar. This led to the amputation of both her legs, as well as thrice-weekly dialysis treatment for her failing kidneys. The severity of her health problems causes Patty and Maddy to move in with Uncle Tony and Momly, although they maintain a strong bond and relationship with their mother.

Patty places enormous pressure on herself to keep everything together. Still a child herself, Patty takes on caretaking responsibilities for Maddy and learns to be self-reliant in the wake of losing her parents. Much of what Patty does is for others. Even running, Patty’s main hobby, begins as a way for Patty to honor her deceased father, and to help her mother live vicariously through her now that she can no longer run herself. She also runs as a promise to Maddy, who in her childlike worry fears that Patty’s legs will also disappear like their mother’s did. Running for Patty is equal parts something she loves to do and something she does for others.

This changes as Patty’s role on the Defenders track team shifts. Sensing that Patty needs to learn how to trust others, her coach assigns her to a relay team instead of a solo event. Patty’s growth as a team member and her ability to trust others to support her as much as she supports them is central to the text.

Patty’s experience at school is another source of stress for her. After moving in with Uncle Tony and Momly, Patty attends Chester Academy, a school with far more resources and wealth than her previous school. Patty doesn’t fit in, and she resents her group members for a class project until she learns that everyone around her struggles with feelings of not fitting in. Momly helps Patty put these feelings in perspective when she explains to Patty that she also attended Chester Academy. Momly shares that her own past mirrors Patty’s in some striking ways, such as feeling different from those around her and the pressure to take on adult responsibilities after losing a parent at a young age.

Patty is finally forced to confront the feelings that she pushes away when Maddy and Momly are in a car accident. Though Maddy comes through with no injuries and Momly needs surgery on her broken arm, this event forces Patty to come to terms with the events of her life. The accident forces Patty to think about what her life might have been like if the outcome had been different, as well as the reality that she has already gone through so much. She weeps as she mourns the loss of her childhood or chance to be normal and because of the resentment she feels after her father’s death.

On the morning of the second track meet, Patty’s best friend from her old neighborhood and Ma surprise her and come to the meet. Patty almost gives up on her team when they drop the baton in the first leg of the relay but reminds herself of all she has learned about being a supportive teammate. She gives it her all when it’s her turn to run, and the novel ends on a cliffhanger, with Patty running the final leg in the relay.

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