Ghost by Jason Reynolds is a fictional novel set in a modern day city and follows the life of 7th grader, Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw as he struggles to overcome a difficult childhood and find a new direction in life with the help of his mentor, Coach Brody.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds was written in 2016. It is the first novel in the award-winning “Track” series. The story is told from the perspective of 7th grader Castle Cranshaw (Ghost), who is struggling to cope after a traumatic incident of domestic violence.
Castle lives with his mother in an impoverished neighborhood in a big city. His father is in jail after attempting to shoot Castle and his mother in a violent, drunken rage. Castle has trouble in school from bullies who tease him incessantly. One day, Castle discovers an elite track team and realizes that joining the team might keep him on track in more ways than one.
Coach Brody of the Defenders convinces Castle’s mother to let him join the team on the condition that he keep up with his schoolwork and stay out of trouble.The first day after this commitment, Castle is cruelly bullied during lunch and he retaliates by assaulting the bully, Brandon Simmons. Fearing his mother’s reaction, he convinces the principal to call his coach to pick him up. After finding out the reason for the fight, Coach Brody allows Castle to stay on the team and gives him support and advice as well as extra running drills as a consequence.
Castle realizes that it is harder to run in his high top sneakers compared to his teammates who all have expensive running shoes. That night, he cuts the tops of his shoes off so they will be lighter to run in. Unfortunately, this leads to further bullying at school. Embarrassed, Castle flees his school in the middle of the day and heads to a sporting goods store where he steals an expensive pair of silver shoes, he calls his silver bullets. The shoes do help Castle run easier and he begins to bond with his teammates and enjoy being on the track team.
Coach Brody takes the new team members out for a “newbie dinner” where they share personal stories and Castle finally feels “seen”. Things are going well until the team gets their new uniforms. Coach Brody sees a “wanted” poster of Castle up in the sporting goods store for shoplifting. He refuses to give Castle his uniform and threatens to kick him off the team. Castle explains that he didn’t want to burden his mother further by asking for the shoes. He knew she couldn’t afford them. He laments that Coach couldn’t possibly understand what he is going through. It is then that Coach Brody reveals that he, too, grew up in the same neighborhood and that his father was a drug addict. He explains that his dedication to running helped give him direction and purpose. He even won a gold medal in the Olympics. Sadly, Coach’s father sold his medal for drugs and later died of a drug overdose.
To make amends, Castle goes with Coach Brody to the sporting goods store. Castle sincerely apologizes and Coach pays for the shoes. With a renewed commitment to “stay on track”, Castle is allowed back on the team in time to compete in their first race. The story ends with Ghost preparing for the first race of his life and realizing that for once, he is not running from his past but towards his future.