Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds.
Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.
Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.
Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.
Like his nickname, Lu is as fast and unique as a lightning bolt. He knows how to be cool. Now Coach has him in a new race, and suddenly life seems to be throwing him all kinds of hurdles. A new baby is on the way, which means he’s going to go from being the one and only to being someone’s big brother. A bully from his past reappears. But when he learns a secret from his father’s past, well, that might be the biggest hurdle of all time.
1. In literature, a symbol is something that represents a bigger idea. In this book, nicknames are often used symbolically. Explain how the symbol of a lightning bolt applies to Lu. What characteristics do they share? How does the symbol of a wolf apply to Torrie Cunningham? If you were going to choose a symbol to represent yourself, what would you choose? Explain your answer. Think about other symbols in the book, like hurdles, light, and shields. How does Jason Reynolds use these symbols to express larger ideas or themes?
2. How can you tell that Lu has conflicting feelings about becoming a big brother? Can you describe his emotions after his parents’ surprise announcement? Have you ever been happy and upset about something at the same time? Do you think Lu is going to be a good big brother? Explain your answer.
3. Why is Lu hesitant to jump hurdles in practice? Has being nervous or afraid ever kept you from trying something?
4. Why do you think Coach points Lu toward Torrie Cunningham? What lesson does he hope Lu will take away from this interaction? Look at the way Reynolds describes Torrie. What do these descriptions tell you about how drugs have affected Torrie’s life?
5. Lu jokes that he is “‘the fine-o albino.’” What does it mean to be albino? What causes albinism? How rare is it in humans and other species? How does being albino affect Lu? Consider both physical and emotional effects.
6. In this novel, Lu and his teammates tease each other playfully, but several of the characters deal with the lingering effects of bullying. Is there a difference between talking trash, or roasting, and bullying? For example, do you think Patty bullies Shante Morris? Do you think Shante Morris is a bully? Do you think people who tease others understand the impact of their words?
7. How does Lu’s father know Coach Otis? How did Otis’s teasing affect Lu’s father when they were teenagers? Do you think Otis knew how hurtful his words were? Explain your answer.
8. What do you think it means to be cool? Do you think different people will have different answers to that question? What decisions did Lu’s father make when he was trying to be cool? How can you tell that he regrets these decisions?
9. One of the things Lu and his mother disagree on is their taste in music. What compromise do they work out? Do you know which musicians or songs your parents listened to when they were young? What do you think about their favorite music? What do they think about the music you like?
10. Who is Kelvin Jefferson? How did he influence Lu’s decision to start running track? Why is Lu scared when he sees him again? Why didn’t he tell anyone, including his friend Ghost, about being bullied? Do you think he should have? How might the situation have turned out differently if he had?
11. How would you define irony? Several situations in this book are good examples of irony. Identify one and explain why it can be considered ironic.
12. Why do you think Lu is able to jump the hurdles when he is not wearing contacts? Are you ever tempted to focus on the obstacles ahead instead of your end goal? What lesson can you take from Reynolds’s book about facing and overcoming challenges?
13. When Lu delivers the fruit sculpture to Maria Gonzales at the Sword and the Stone, what does she tell him about the legend of King Arthur? What does thinking about this legend help Lu realize about himself?
14. How does Lu find out that his dad has Coach’s gold medal? What happens when he confronts his father about it? Have you ever had to confront an adult? What happened?
15. How did Lu’s father end up with the gold medal? Why do you think it takes him so long to return it? Lu witnesses the conversation between his father and Coach from a distance, but does not hear what each man says. What do you think they said to each other? Do you think they’re both at fault in this situation?
16. Why do you think Lu’s dad takes Lu with him when he confronts Wolf? Do you think this changes the way Lu views his father?
17. The word sympathy means the ability to feel another person’s feelings, but the word empathy is a bit different. Having empathy means you are able to understand why another person feels or acts the way they do. Though Lu does not agree with what his father or Kelvin Jefferson have done, he displays empathy toward them. Explain the series of realizations that help him develop this empathy. Studies have shown that reading fiction helps develop empathy. How has this book helped you to understand other people? Which character do you most identify with? Explain your answer.
18. Lu spends time reflecting on the word integrity. How do his actions at the end of the book demonstrate integrity? How important is integrity to you? Can you name a choice you’ve made that was influenced by your sense of integrity?
19. At the championship meet, what decision do the Defenders make as a team? Would you have made the same decision if you had been on this team? Explain your answer.
20. Have you read any of the other books in Reynolds’s Track series? If so, how did this book increase your understanding of the characters? If not, is there another member of the Defenders whom you would like to learn more about?
1. One of the novel’s themes is the importance of naming. Lu begins each chapter with a new name for something, which continues throughout the book as he names and renames things, including himself. The names we accept and the names we create have power. An important African-American writer named Ralph Ellison wrote, “We must learn to wear our names within all the noise and confusion in which we find ourselves. They must become our masks and our shields . . .” Can you relate this quote to Reynolds’s book? How do names function as both masks and shields in this novel? Are names important to you? Have you ever named someone or something, such as a pet? How did you choose the name? Create a list of new names for things or people, using the names Lu created as a guide. Explain why you’ve chosen these names.
2. When Lu’s parents tell him that he is going to have a little sister, his mother tells him that she is going to see herself in Lu. Who do you see yourself in? Who do you think sees themselves in you? Think about the letter that Whit writes to her brother telling him how much he means to her; write a letter to a close friend or family member telling them how important they are in your life.
3. Describe Lu’s mother’s successful small business, Picasso of Produce. Research the steps toward starting a small business. Based on the details in Reynolds’s book, what do you think Lu’s mother’s business plan might look like? If you were to start your own small business, what would your business be? Create a business plan and pitch your idea to your classmates.
4. Lu uses a mantra as a way to build his confidence. Write a mantra for yourself and try saying it in front of the mirror before you go to bed or when you get ready in the morning. How does it make you feel? Create a visual to go along with your mantra, like a collage or a sign.
5. Both Lu and his father have been affected by bullying. What can you do to help stop bullying in your school and community? Work with your classmates to develop a plan to teach others about what constitutes bullying, and the effects of being bullied. Use scenes from the book as examples of behavior.
6. Restorative justice is a rehabilitating system in which people who commit crimes work to right their wrongs with the victims of their crimes or the community at large. Lu’s father committed crimes as a younger man. How does he make amends with the people he hurt? How does he work to restore the damage to his community? Do you think restorative justice seems like a better idea than locking people away? Debate this topic as a class.
7. When Lu is at work with his father, he reads about the twelve-step programs for recovery. Examine each of the character traits mentioned in that section of the book. Choose one or more of these and write a reflective essay about what the trait means to you and why it is important.
Guide prepared by Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. The American Booksellers Association’s 2017 and 2018 spokesperson for Indies First, his many books include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, For Every One, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.