A year ago I received a box of ARCs from Simon & Schuster and, poking around, came across Jason Reynolds’ Ghost. While I’d heard a great deal about wunderkind Reynolds and read with respect some of his YA work, that he had a middle grade book coming out was a complete surprise to me. About track — my one competitive sport — no less. And so I jumped right in and fell madly in love with it. (You can read my gushy review here.) And so now here we are a year later with the next in the Track series, featuring team mate Patty aka Patina.
On the very first page of Patina we are brought back to the track meet that ended Ghost, Patty telling us what happened and why. No spoilers from me though! Just moving on as this story is Patty’s not Ghost’s. It is one of legs, strong ones, missing ones, relay race ones, and more. These real and metaphoric legs make their way through the novel, effectively raising and highlighting important themes. They serve beautifully as Patty watches, acts, considers, and grows in her understanding of the world.
Where Ghost was about racing for and against yourself, Patina is about teamwork. There is teamwork practice of all kinds for the track team members who will be running relays in an upcoming meet. As well there is the group assignment at school where Patty is resigned to doing the bulk of the work, as usual, sensing no action on at least two of the group members. There is the teamwork of her family — her little sister, her diabetic and legless mother, and the aunt and uncle the siblings live with. The adults around them are good and caring, supporting the girls in the best ways they can. Reynolds’ scenes are beautifully done full of sensory details. You can just see those family meals, smell the uncle’s nasty truck, hear authentic conversations, and feel Patty’s body as she pushes it as hard as she can in workouts. The relationship between the sisters, Patty and Maddy is especially warm and delightful.
What for me elevates this book and its predecessor to such a high level (goodreads five stars:) is Reynolds’ fabulous writing. He’s got a way with a few sentences that stops me in total admiration, again and again. Say these:
Deep breaths, Patty, my mad slowly mellowing. This temper ain’t a new temper. Breaking invisible teacups. Smashing them everywhere. No this ain’t new. I just be keeping it pushed down, all the way down in my legs.
I highly, highly recommend this book and eagerly await the next in the series.