I have a giant reading crush on Jason Reynolds. Actually, I don't even know that much about him. I just love his books.
Last year, I read his Brave Like You and adored it.
Last week I read Patina and loved it as well. Reynolds writes in an honest, authentic way about African-American childhood. I think we sometimes associate serious, somber themes with African-American narratives. Maybe because books with those narratives have been very important in changing how we talk about race to young people. They deserve to be important, but at the same time, I think we stereotype again, stripping African-American characters of their nuances and variation, if we always assume they have the same life story.
Reynolds in no way ignores the struggles that African-American children face, but he makes it clear that their race is only one aspect of their personality. And while it is always there, in the background, race isn't the main event in his books.
I really hope I don't sound like I am diminishing those serious, necessary books about racial experiences, because there are some seriously amazing books out there about that. However, I love books that also give students from diverse backgrounds, common ground. Rather than always seeing other, they can make connections to these characters that might help them to understand those serious, important books a little more.
I hope that makes sense.
Anyway, back to Patina. Patina is a middle schooler, at a prestigious, predominantly white, prep school. She had a difficult childhood, but is now living with her uncle and aunt in a stable environment. She has also just joined an elite running team (the same one Ghost is on). Navigating through middle school, as well as trying to survive being the "new" teammate, Patina also struggles with making sure her younger sister is taken care of and her aunt and uncle have all the help they need in the house. See, just because you are a kid, doesn't mean you aren't aware of all the responsibilities around you. Even though she has lived with her aunt and uncle for years, Patina still feels that she needs to do everything she can to make it easier on them, despite efforts by her aunt and uncle to help her relax and be a kid. It takes a serious event to help Patina see that she has a good support network on her side. She doesn't actually have to hold it all together herself.
That actually sounds serious and hardship filled. But it didn't feel like that. It felt funny, smart, and hopeful. I couldn't help loving Patina and identifying with her sense of responsibility. And ultimately, her incredible, loving support system!
You will love it. You just will.