Lu, Volume 4
by Jason Reynolds
A middle-grade runner soars over obstacles to shine as a leader for his team and family. In this final addition to Reynolds' Track series, the titular, self-described "fine-o albino" is nervous, maybe a little scared, about the many changes occurring during the week leading to the championships for the Defenders. An unexpected pregnancy announcement from his parents and the challenge of waltzing to a win in his new event, hurdles, among other things, keep Lu's emotions, and feet, racing.
Reynolds' seamless integration of Lu's story into his series shows him to be a master of temporal structure, highlighting individual and collective growth of his four protagonists over one season. The circularity of his similes in describing the generations of teasing endured by Lu's father, who stuttered as a child ("You sound like a choking Chihuahua"), by Lu, bullied due to his albinism ("Yo, you look like a cotton ball dipped in white paint"), and even by a bully Lu takes down ("Yo, Kelvin, you smell like your blood ain't blood. It's trash juice pumping through your things") emphasizes the triumph of healing and unity in the book's surprising ending.
New and returning characters help to create tension and smooth transitions, but Lu pulls ahead as the catalyst for much of the relational shifts between adults and kids, showcasing children's power to effect true communal change.