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Sunny and Lu

Last year saw Jason Reynolds conclude his excellent series about the newbies on the Defenders track team. The final two books Sunny and Lu came out relatively close together. I read them both this week and decided to put them in one review. In my opinion these two were not as strong as the first two in the series, but I do feel like the end overall was well done.

Sunny runs for his mom. His mom who can't run because she died when he was born. It's more accurate to say he runs for his father who is constantly reminding him of this. Sunny doesn't want to run though. He loves being a part of the Defenders. He just doesn't want to run the mile anymore. So one day he doesn't. He just stops. Refuses to move on and finish. His father won't talk to him, but coach understands. Sunny really wants to dance but there is no position for a dancer on a track team. Instead Sunny starts throwing the discus, which is kind of like dancing in a way. But he still needs to face his father's disappointment and the hole in their lives his mother left behind.

Sunny is a likable character. His voice wasn't as strong to me as the others. His story is told as though the book is his journal, and he is talking to it. There is a stream of conscious to this as a result that. Added to that is Sunny's almost hyper personality that bounces fast from one thing to another quickly. It made the narrative a little tougher to follow because it was jerking and twisting  so much. It sets it apart as unique from the others, but it was harder for me to focus on and want to follow. I think this will in no way be a problem for the intended audience, and what is challenging for some readers, will be exactly what some will come to love about this book. One thing that is great about this series overall is how different each character is and how very much they own their stories. It is also nice to have a book where the protagonist is a homeschooler who isn't off-the-walls weird or with a crazy family.

Lu is co-captain of the Defenders-a position that is quite an honor for a newbie. Lu knows he is good and destined for great things. His very existence is a miracle after all. His mother wasn't supposed to able to have kids and yet here he is. Sure he gets teased some for being albino. But he also has swagger and not a little bit of ego. Then Lu finds out he's going to be an older brother making him not quite so much a miracle anymore. As he's coming to terms with the kind of big brother he wants to be, he learns some troubling things about his father's fast that also has him questioning who he is and what sort of person he is and the sort of person he wants to become. j

Lu's story brings the whole series full circle. There's a reason he was chosen to be a co-captain and that is obvious as the book progresses. All of the others are present far more in Lu's books than they are in each others. This isn't simply convenient so Reynolds could bring the series to a close. It's because Lu is one of those personalities that reaches out and grabs others. He pays attention to their lives and pulls them into his. There are a lot of hard truths Lu has to face in this book. He does this mostly with grace and charm even though his struggle is also clearly evident.

The backstory of Coach that began in Ghost is brought full circle in this volume as well. The end is kind of corny overall, but it is the type of corny that works. That's a fine line to tread, but Reynolds finds the balance.

I do think the series strongest book is Patina but that could simply be because she's my favorite character. It's definitely one of those series where all the books benefit from the others and they are must have for any middle grade reader's shelves.


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