The second book in the “Run” series by Jason Reynolds is in my opinion, even better than the first book, Ghost, which I also loved..
This time the story focuses on Patina (Patty) who projects a surface sheen of cool coping to conceal the boiling anguish inside. Patty is the fastest 800m runner on the track team, needing to win at all costs as she pushes through life with an almost unimaginable weight on her young shoulders. As her tragic family history is revealed I found my heart breaking at the thought of this teenager trying to contain the unimaginable pain of losing her beloved father to an early death followed by watching her mother develop “the sugar” (diabetes), necessitating radical amputations. Patty’s care for Maddy, her younger sister, and the guardianship provided by her exhausted aunt and uncle are described with gentle domestic details making you realise that this family is held together by self-sacrificing love.
Before I give the impression that this is a misery-fest, I ought to say that such is the power of Jason Reynolds’ writing, he can combine heartfelt emotion with zinging humour and contemporary teenage put-downs. His style segues from trackside banter to poetic descriptions like an elite athlete moving up through the gears. The short chapters and kinetic writing, power you through the story at a pace The Defenders track team would be proud of!
Patty has had to move schools, joining the elite Chester Academy which is closer to her aunt’s house, where she feels like an imposter amongst the rich kid “hair-flippers”. The description of her doing laps of the cafeteria whilst eating her lunch because she has nobody to sit with will tug at your heart strings.
The athletics track is the venue for Patty to release her anguish, and where she has to win. Here she pushes her legs until they are screaming with pain, feeling that she is running with four legs: her own and her mum’s missing ones. The scenes where she develops teamwork and understanding with her new relay team are both hilarious and touching; the reliance on everyone performing their role reflecting Patty’s domestic situation. Imagery of the baton of care and responsibility being passed from one family member to another permeates the story, so that we see the extended family unit functioning like a well-coached team of athletes, each member stepping up as another exhausts their role.
This is a book which will live long in my heart and I don’t mind admitting that at one point I “cried me a flood”. I cannot recommend it highly enough as a thoroughly gripping story to add to your “read-for-empathy” collections for anyone of 10+.