Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016), narrated by Guy Lockard
Middle-grade fiction has never really been my thing, but I keep hearing about Jason Reynolds and this book in particular recently (partly because a book group at work is reading it) so I downloaded the audio which was a nice short listen between some of my longer audiobooks.
I enjoyed this story way more than I thought I would. Ghost is really a great kid, and Reynolds captures all the difficulties of growing up with its myriad pressures and few solutions available to kids. Ghost is really doing the best he has with what he has, which isn't much. His father is in jail for trying to shoot Ghost and his mother, and now his mom is working her butt off to take care of him. She works in the cafeteria at a hospital and she's taking classes to be a nurse. Every time she appears in the story she is exhausted, and it's not hard to see why. She's a pretty amazing, strong woman and I think Ghost sees this too.
He's not over what happened when he was so young, but he's never really talked about it. Only when he joins the track team does he have a real support system of peers who help each other out and understand what their friends have been through. This camaraderie is due in no small part to their fantastic coach, a former Olympic medalist who doesn't like to talk about his past but obviously cares more about the kids on his team than pretty much anything else.
The other great adult in Ghost's life is Mr. Charles who owns a store where Ghost goes all the time to buy his favorite snack, sunflower seeds. The two have a great relationship and when Ghost finally gets his track uniform Mr. Charles is the first person he goes to show it to.
Lest we forget how young this kid is, at one point he exclaims how great it would be to own a store because you wouldn't have to buy groceries. I totally remember being young enough to think that makes sense. He's also obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records, memorizing and rattling off the names of people who hold records for various feats, a very common interest for people that age (I also found it fascinating, but never got as far as memorization.)
Guy Lockard captured all the humor and wonder and cleverness of Ghost's personality and made this book a lot of fun to listen to. He narrates some other books by Reynolds too, so if I decide to read more from this author - which seems likely after Ghost - I'll probably listen to the audio version again.