Review of Patina, by Jason Reynolds


Track: Book 2

by Jason Reynolds

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), 2017. 233 pages.

This is the second book in Jason Reynolds’ Track series, each one featuring one new member of the “Defenders” track team. Both volumes so far end with a race, but you don’t find out who wins until the next volume. (This is a little annoying. By the time I got to read Patina, I’d forgotten Ghost had left off in the middle of a race, so I wasn’t nearly as invested as I would have been if the end of the race had been the end of the book. Once the series is done, it will keep kids reading on in the series, though.)

The first book featured Ghost, who’s used to running from problems. This second book features Patina, who’s carrying a heavy load for her family. As in the first book, the track gives her insight about her life, this time it’s Patina learning to run a relay and be part of a team.

Patina’s father died years ago, and her mother has diabetes, with both her legs amputated and needing dialysis. So Patti and her little sister Maddy live with their uncle and aunt. But Patti feels very responsible for Maddy, and responsible for her mother, too, to some extent. On top of that, Patti’s going to a new school, a private “academy,” and is new on the track team.

I like where Patti describes her Sunday ritual of doing Maddy’s hair.

I do Maddy’s hair every Sunday for two reasons. The first is because Momly can’t do it. If it was up to her, Maddy’s hair would be in two Afro-puffs every day. Either that, or Momly would’ve shaved it all off by now. It’s not that she don’t care. She does. It’s just that she don’t know what to do with hair like Maddy’s – like ours. Ma do, but Momly . . . nope. She never had to deal with nothing like it, and there ain’t no rule book for white people to know how to work with black hair. And her husband, my uncle Tony, he ain’t no help. Ever since they adopted us, every time I talk about Maddy’s hair, Uncle Tony says the same thing – just let it rock. Like he’s gonna sit in the back of Maddy’s class and stink-face all the six-year-old bullies in barrettes. Right. But luckily for everybody, especially Maddy, I know what I’m doing. Been a black girl all my life.

The other reason I always do Maddy’s hair on Sundays is because that’s when we see Ma, and she don’t wanna see Maddy looking like “she ain’t never been nowhere.”

I like the way this series focuses in on each featured character. There’s always a story. Patina’s story isn’t quite as dramatic as Ghost’s, but Patti still has plenty to deal with in this book. And I like the way some things get worked out with the team.

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