On My Bookshelf: Sunny by Jason Reynolds

September 02, 2019

Sunny by Jason Reynolds focuses on the main character’s grief over losing a mother he never met, a woman his father was completely in love with and made all of his life plans with. Sunny feels that he is disappointing both his parents by not fulfilling his mother’s dreams. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Sunny tries to shine despite his troubled past in this third novel in the critically acclaimed Track series from National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Patina. Sunny. Lu. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds, with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics. They all have a lot of lose, but they all have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is the main character in this novel, the third of four books in Jason Reynold’s electrifying middle grade series.

Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But Sunny’s life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.

With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard hits of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. As Sunny practices the discus, learning when to let go at just the right time, he’ll let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside, perhaps just in time.
Sunny by Jason Reynolds focuses on the main character’s grief over losing a mother he never met, a woman his father was completely in love with and made all of his life plans with. Sunny feels that he is disappointing both his parents by not fulfilling his mother’s dreams. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: Sunny is the third book in Jason Reynold's Track series and I'll be honest, it didn't grab me the same way the first two, Ghost and Patina, did. I still enjoyed getting to know all of the characters better and I'm hoping the fourth and final book in the series will pick up the pace again.

Sunny focuses on the main character’s grief over losing a mother he never met, a woman his father was completely in love with and made all of his life plans with. Sunny feels that he is disappointing both his parents by not fulfilling his mother’s dreams, but they are the dreams that she had for herself and Sunny finally takes a stand about his own dreams. I wished that Ghost, Patina, Lu and the rest of the track crew played a larger role in the book.

I did feel a personal connection with the plot since like Sunny’s mother, my grandmother’s mother died in childbirth. I loved that Sunny and his father did puzzles made out of photographs of his mother. I also thought Sunny’s homeschool experience was highly unrealistic. While Aurelia was an awesome support for Sunny, his schooling was completely unstructured. As a teacher I objected to the fact that there was no mention of any testing or how he would receive credit for courses.

Classroom application: Like the rest of the Track series, I would recommend Sunny for middle school and up.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Sunny for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Sunny by Jason Reynolds focuses on the main character’s grief over losing a mother he never met, a woman his father was completely in love with and made all of his life plans with. Sunny feels that he is disappointing both his parents by not fulfilling his mother’s dreams. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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