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Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. The American Booksellers Association's 2017 and 2018 spokesperson for Indies First, his many books include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, For Every One, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He lives in Washington, DC.
From Jason: "Here's what I know: I know there are a lot - A LOT - of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don't actually hate books, they hate boredom. So here's what I plan to do: NOT WRITE BORING BOOKS."
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Photo credit - Ben Fractenberg.
Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.
Jason Reynolds is the master of giving voice to children and teenagers who exist - and often struggle - on the margins of society. Against tough competition, this exceptional novel might be his finest yet. Matt has recently lost his beloved mom and feels excruciatingly lonely in his grief. By page two, when Matt comes home to a house that was “totally silent. And it had no smell,” the author encapsulates the raw invisibility of grief with visceral power. Haunted by how his mom made him feel “like the luckiest kid in the world...like I was somebody important”, and needing something to occupy his mind (and some cash), Matt takes a job helping family friend and funeral director Mr Ray, and unexpectedly finds that attending funerals and witnessing the grief of others makes him feel less alone. With his dad otherwise disposed after seeking solace in whiskey, Mr Ray is heart-meltingly supportive, reaching out to Matt while his “old man is getting himself together”. It’s at one of his work funerals that Matt begins to form a beautiful bond with Lovey, a young woman who’s experienced more pain and loss than even Matt can imagine. As Lovey opens Matt’s world and heart, they discover that they’re also bonded by a tragic moment that shaped both their lives. Readers will hope with all their hearts that Lovey and Matt’s futures are presaged by Bob Marley’s “every little thing gonna be alright” lyrics that ring out during a momentous shared taxi ride. Boldly honest and bathed in empathy, Matt’s all-consuming, touching tale possesses a rare power to leave a lasting imprint.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Pitch perfect characterisation in a powerful story that shows how talent and support can turn a life around. This first book in the four part Run series is a world class middle grade story with all the witty tenderness of Louis Sachar and a whole lot of heart, humour and edge-of-your-seat action. Castle Cranshaw (better known as Ghost) discovered his talent for running the night he and his mom fled his violent dad. “Running isn’t anything I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do”, he explains. Hassled at school for his Mom-made haircuts, and constantly trying to avoid “altercations” that wind up making his school file bulge, Ghost’s life takes an upward turn when he spontaneously races a budding elite sprinter at a training session and wins. The coach, a former Olympic gold medalist, immediately invites him to join the team and they form a heart-melting bond fuelled by friendly sparring. Coach is exactly the mentor Ghost and his diverse bunch of talented teammates need. Ghost’s voice is endearingly authentic, honest and funny - pitch-perfect for his age and the novel’s readership. His “No! Don’t do it!” decisions and ensuing scrapes are evoked with intensity and humour (just wait for the “silver bullet” incident). Truly I cannot wait to spend more time in the company of Coach, Ghost and his teammates, each of whom will feature in future books in the series.
Winner of UKLA Shortlist Book Awards 2019 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Will is only fifteen but he’s experienced more violence and loss than most people might in an entire lifetime. His big brother Shawn was recently shot dead, right in front of him, but as “everybody knows”, “gunshots make everybody/deaf and blind especially/when they make somebody/dead”. While his mom mourns, “sobbing into her palms”, Will knows what he has to do. He must follow the three rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. Armed with Shawn’s gun, Will heads down six floors in an elevator on his revenge mission, thinking he knows exactly who he’s going after. When the “spooky ass” elevator stops at each floor and ghosts from the past step into the “vertical coffin”, doubts set in as Will is presented with more facts and finally comes face to face with some big choices (do some rules need to be broken? Does he want out of the cycle?), and more besides. The writing is crisp, clever and dazzlingly compact, with a whole family history and personally-charged societal issues conveyed with powerful precision. The line and page breaks are perfectly constructed, words and phrases frequently have multiple meanings, and Chris Priestley’s raw and resonant illustrations are hauntingly powerful.
AND THEN THERE WERE SHOTS. Everybody ran, ducked, hid, tucked themselves tight. Pressed our lips to the pavement and prayed the boom, followed by the buzz of a bullet, didn't meet us. After Will's brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don't cry. Don't snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn's gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will's friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he's doing. This haunting, lyrical, powerful verse novel will blow you away.