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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There is some typical middle school boy-girl flirting and talking of "liking" one another, but nothing heavy.
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Minor name-calling, such as calling a kid "Shack" because his real name is Castle and he's poor.
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Products & Purchases
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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.