Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw knows how to run from his problems. Three years ago, his dad went after him and his mom with a gun, and the two of them had to run for their lives. His dad’s in prison now, but Ghost and his mom are still dealing with the emotional fallout. Ghost is a good kid, but his past has left him angry and with an attitude problem. One day, he decides to disrupt the school’s track team tryouts by running onto the field and beating everyone’s best time. Some coaches would discipline him for the interruption—but loud-mouthed Coach Brody is impressed with Ghost’s athletic ability, and ends up giving him a shot at making the team. To his surprise, Ghost really likes the other track candidates, and adopts the group as his own. He decides he’ll do anything to make the team. But when he steals a pair of new track shoes to replace his torn-up sneakers, he comes to realize that his bad choices just might cost him everything.
Swift, funny, and moving, Ghost is a gem. While there’s some potentially heavy stuff on the story’s periphery (characters have conversations about abuse, parental drug use, and hard upbringings), Reynolds deftly handles it in a way suitable for younger teens. The first installment in a projected trilogy, it’s the perfect book for librarians to hand to students or parents seeking “clean” realistic fiction. Recommended for Grade 6-8.