Happy New Year everyone!
I’m kicking off this year on Read It Real Good by inviting a friend to share a review. I met Chisom Onyeuku last year at Kweli Journal’s The Color of Children’s Literature Conference in NYC. Not only is he a kind person, he cares a lot about diverse books, representation and great stories, so it was a no-brainer to invite him here to share a bit of his writing with you. 🙂 He’s currently working on a middle grade novel titled Life in the Flats. If you’d like to talk to him about his review, you can find him on Facebook.
Patina by Jason Reynolds
Review by Chisom Onyeuku
Sports stories have always been some of my favorites. When done right, they can encapsulate action, adventure, romance and highly personal stakes. For that reason, I was excited to pick up the first book of Jason Reynolds’ Defenders track series, GHOST, especially after I found out it was about a black boy coming into his own. GHOST was easily one of my favorite reads of 2017 and so when I found out that there would be a sequel, I knew I had to read it. PATINA picked right back where GHOST left off. What makes PATINA great is that although it takes place in the same “Defenders” universe, Patina’s story feels markedly different from Ghost’s. I love how the track becomes a catalyst for Patina to find comfort amidst some difficult circumstances and I enjoyed the interactions between Patina and her teammates.
When I encountered Patina at the beginning of the book, I was elated that, through her eyes, we get to watch Ghost finish the race from the end of the previous book. I won’t spoil the race but Jason expertly plays on the audience’s expectations to create a suspenseful scene. From there, we fully cross into Patina’s story arc.
Like Ghost, Patina has deeply personal reasons for running track that resonated with me as a former athlete. More importantly, they resonated with me as a person. Like every great novel, I found myself not only empathizing with the main character but also her friends and teammates. I appreciated that Jason introduces Patina’s surface motivations for running track before delving deeper into the story.
The pace of the book is much like a 400-meter dash. Out of the gate, Patina is running to prove to everyone that “Patty ain’t no junk.” By the 200-meter mark, she’s dealing with challenges of school and adapting to her new teammates. And the last 100 meters are focused on her family. After all of these stretches, we finally have a moment of quiet with Patina and her uncle. Like the diner scene from Ghost, I was caught off guard by how close that moment brought me to tears. It gave me time to appreciate Patina’s journey and growth but I was also reminded that no matter what she had been through, she still had her family and friends. She didn’t have to bear the weight of her struggles alone; a lesson that we should all be reminded of from time to time.
Like Patina, I had teammates that became friends who I now consider family. I feel like I’m watching that bond form between The Defenders. A large portion of the story revolves around Patina’s work with her relay teammates. Luckily, Ghost, Sunny and Lu are never too far away. You can see how much their bond has evolved since their formation. Even though PATINA stands alone, the story still feels part of something bigger. I consider that one of the markers of great series writing.
Jason has a knack for drawing you in with his writing and taking you on an emotional roller coaster. Growing up, I didn’t see myself in a lot of literature. However, I did when I encountered Ghost for the first time. Patina could have easily been a teammate and friend of mine. As I walked with them through their respective journeys, I was reminded of why I love sports stories so much. No matter what you bring to the track or to the page, you will always walk away with more than you brought to it.
Recommended for: 5th Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Diversity, Teamwork, Track and Field, Sports, Middle School Life, Determination, Black Girl Magic
Book Info: Patina by Jason Reynolds/Jacket Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2017 Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481450188