67 pages 2 hours read

Jason Reynolds


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide


Ghost is a 2016 novel by American author Jason Reynolds. Reynolds began his writing career as a poet and published his first novel, When I Was the Greatest, in 2014. Reynolds has won several accolades, including a Kirkus Prize, an NAACP Image Award, a Schneider Family Book Award, a Newbery Medal, and a Carnegie Medal. From 2020 to 2022, he was the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and he won the 2023 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his contributions to young adult literature.

A 2016 National Books Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature, Ghost is the first installment in the Track series, which follows members of a junior high track team. Ghost follows Castle Crenshaw, a young man who finds community and purpose on the track team after experiencing trauma. The novel discusses themes like Teamwork and Belonging, Overcoming Childhood Trauma, and You Can’t Escape Yourself.

This guide refers to the paperback edition of Ghost, published by Antheneum Books in 2017.

Content Warning: The source material and this guide discuss domestic violence.

Plot Summary

Ghost tells the story of Castle Cranshaw, a troubled youth who is trying to cope with a traumatic childhood. When he joins the Defenders track team, he learns that he does not have to let his past define him.

Castle lives in a poor neighborhood called Glass Manor. As the novel opens, he is angry and directionless. When Castle was a child, his father shot at him and his mother with a pistol while he was drunk. They escaped and hid in the storeroom of Mr. Charles’s local market. Castle’s anger and lack of self-control are largely due to the trauma of being attacked by his father and then losing him after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Castle’s time at school is characterized by bad grades and fights with other students. One day after school, Castle sees a track team practicing. After he watches for a while, he challenges one of their fastest sprinters to a race and holds his own. Coach Brody invites Castle to join the team, and Castle convinces his mother to let him. She agrees, provided Castle stays out of trouble.

Castle gets in a fight with a school bully named Brandon the next day, but Coach picks him up and agrees not to tell his mother. At practice that afternoon, one of the runners mocks Castle’s high-top shoes. That night, Castle cuts the tops off them, which only leads to worse teasing at school the next day. He then steals a pair of expensive running shoes from a sporting goods store.

Coach takes the new runners out to a Chinese restaurant, a yearly tradition. At the dinner, Castle learns that each of them has a troubled past and secrets. He begins to feel as if he belongs on the team, and the sense of having a group helps with his anger issues.

When Coach learns that Castle stole the shoes, they have a conversation about it. Coach tells Castle that he grew up in the same neighborhood and lost his father to drugs. Coach and Castle bond over their pasts, finding understanding with each other that the others can’t offer. However, Coach—who won a gold medal in the Olympics—also makes it clear that if he can overcome his past, so can Castle. He takes Castle to the store to apologize and then buys the shoes for him.

At the novel’s conclusion, Castle is at the starting line preparing to run his first race. His mother, aunt, cousin, and teammates are all supporting him. For the first time, Castle feels hopeful for his future. The novel ends as the starting gun fires.