When it comes to running 1600 meters, Sunny Lancaster is a winner. Wih-winner. And he makes his dad, his coach and his teammates proud. Unfortunately, he’s also bored with running. What he really wants to do is dance.
Jason Reynolds’ Sunny is fantastic. His story of a boy who feels pressured into doing something he doesn’t enjoy is sure to resonate with middle grade readers. I love that both Sunny and his dad are driven by their love for his mom (who died when Sunny was born) — Sunny’s dad wants him to run because his mom was a runner, and Sunny wants to dance because it’s in dancing that he feels closest to his mom. I love the story about his mom, and how Sunny and his dad have to deal with their grief over her death.
I also love that Sunny’s coach made the effort to think outside the box in finding a compromise between Sunny’s love for dancing and Sunny’s being part of the track team. No spoilers, but I thought what the coach recommended is genius. Too often, I’ve seen YA books and movies where the adults are inflexible and deliver ultimatums, forcing the child to choose between pleasing their parents or following their dreams, so it was great to see that these choices aren’t always an either/or, all-or-nothing dichotomy.
Finally, I love the format. Reynolds tells Sunny’s story completely in diary entries, and does a great job in making Sunny’s voice real. Sunny’s love of music and rhythm comes through in the cadence of his writing, and he occasionally inserts beats and sounds. I love the way Sunny describes the way he moves, as he really makes us feel the connection between what he does on the track team and the dance moves he wants to make. Sunny comes alive through his voice, and I can imagine his voice resonating with young readers who also love music and dance.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this in exchange for an honest review.