Ghost: Track, Book 1

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Ghost: Track, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Poignant, smart look at track star running from his past.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story gives kids some pretty cool life lessons, such as making sure you take responsibility for your actions when you make a mistake and finding the courage to try something new. Kids new to the sport of track also learn more about the rules and the process.

Positive Messages

One of the main positive messages in the book involves a kid taking responsibility for stealing -- turning himself in and apologizing -- and the same kid learns to depend on and trust new friends and adults in his life. The book also underscores the value of good sportsmanship and coping with bullying without violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The adults are both empathetic and strong leaders who work with Castle as he navigates the ups and downs of his life. The students rely on friendship and positive peer pressure to keep one another moving in the right direction in their lives.


There's an incident in which a drunk man begins shooting at his wife and son, who run away unharmed. Prior instances of domestic violence are hinted at but not shown in detail. Two boys fight after one is bullying the other, the bully's hit with a cafeteria tray and fist, but not shown bloody or with any injuries.


There is some typical middle school boy-girl flirting and talking of "liking" one another, but nothing heavy.


Minor name-calling, such as calling a kid "Shack" because his real name is Castle and he's poor.


Minor mention of brand-name running shoes such as Nike for descriptive purposes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults are shown abusing alcohol, including one violent incident where a drunk man shoots his wife and son. Another adult is discussed as having a drug abuse problem and selling their son's Olympic gold medal for drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ghost, written by Coretta Scott King Honor author Jason Reynolds (The Boy in the Black Suit) is a story about overcoming tragedy and finding where you belong. The first of Reynolds' middle grade Track series, it includes themes of bullying and abuse, and parents should be ready to discuss alcoholism, nonviolent ways to stand up to bullying, pursuing things you're passionate about, and finding reliable mentors.There are two major incidents of violence (a shooting where no one's hurt, and a fight between two boys) but they're not gory or excessive. There's an audiobook version narrated by actor Guy Lockhart. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byR F. January 20, 2018

Too violent for younger kids

My 10 yo daughter was supposed to read this book for school. I'm glad I read the back first and then proceeded to read the book myself. I found it too matu... Continue reading
Adult Written byJohn DiModica November 27, 2018

Drunk father shoots at main character and his mom!

How in the world is this book OK for 10-year-olds?! The second chapter opens with a scene of the protagonist’s drunk father coming home brandishing a gun and sh... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 15, 2020
Kid, 8 years old September 29, 2020

A great book.

This book is awesome with great messages telling the side of the troubled child.

What's the story?

GHOST is Castle Cranshaw's new nickname -- he gave it to himself and it sticks when he challenges a track team's best sprinter to a race. Running is as easy for him as breathing, probably because he's been doing it all his life. An emerging track star with a past, Ghost has to figure out why he runs -- is it toward what his life could be or away from his past? Luckily, he has new friends on the team, his coach, and even his mom to help him figure it all out.

Is it any good?

Another poignant, engaging, exciting novel that combines middle school, sports, and life lessons from Coretta Scott King Honor author Jason Reynolds. Ghost is the kind of story readers carve out time for because they won't want to put it down. Students and parents alike will easily identify with Castle as he navigates middle school with heavy adult concerns on his shoulders. Even though he comes across as tough, Castle is highly observant and sensitive to the personalities and circumstances around him, which can lead to him becoming overwhelmed by situations he faces throughout the book. His learning how to focus and channel those emotions is a large part of what makes the story successful.

Two things that stand out in addition to Castle's wit and acute understanding of human nature: the multiple opportunities he has for mentorship and the positive peer pressure he gets from all sides as he moves to outrun his anger and the ghosts of his past. This makes the relationships and story that much more dynamic and rich.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how in Ghost the main character publicly apologizes for a crime, even though it's hard. Can you think of any recent media stories where athletes had to apologize for making poor decisions? What made them feel genuine or staged? What are the elements of a real apology?

  • At first Ghost and his teammates compete with animosity, but once they bond, they learn to root for one another. How do you display good sportsmanship?

  • Outside of family, who's your favorite adult to go to for guidance and a listening ear?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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