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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Heavy Medal Finalist – Patina

patinaLong List Title:  PATINA

It is easy to look at Patina and compare it to other books this year.  How does Patina, as a character, compare to Starr?  To Malu?  To Imogene or Shannon in our two graphic novels?  I’d love to hear readers thoughts on this.

As for me, I think she is an incredibly strong and well realized character.  She is clever, funny, and flawed.  I think that Reynolds brings her a clear and unique voice, a story that is believable, and an arch that makes the audience cheer.  She may be the strongest most believable protagonist for me of the batch.

The writing is strong, sharp, and sometimes surprising.  It isn’t soft and dainty, it’s in-your-face and child readers should relate strongly to it.

Plot was, perhaps, the weakest spot of this one for me.  I grew a bit bored at times and felt there was sometimes a bit of telling as opposed to showing.  I’ll be curious to see what others think, and will dig out some examples in the discussion, if it makes sense to.

Sharon McKellar About Sharon McKellar

Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at


  1. I agree, Sharon, with all you say here, especially regarding plot. While not on your long or short lists, LONG WAY DOWN is the 2017 Reynolds book that blew me away in all Newbery criteria. Wish I’d read it in time to advocate for it here.

    • I completely agree. LONG WAY DOWN was stronger in every way leaving Patina behind. Patina certainly has it’s strengths, especially in the characterizations and relationships that Reynolds builds but not to the same degree as Long Way Down. I would advocate for it heavily as well.

    • I know LONG WAY DOWN is not supposed to be the focus of this thread, but since it’s been mentioned twice, I have a few questions:

      LONG WAY DOWN was probably my favorite Reynolds book I’ve read and that’s to say that I’ve actually been underwhelmed by everything he’s written that’s been adored by others. But a few things bothered me about LONG WAY DOWN and I don’t know if others felt the same or if my thoughts are too nitpicky.

      I found myself wishing Reynolds would have dropped the concept of the 60 second elevator ride. I think he could have accomplished the same immediacy without the time displayed and just keeping the interactions as brief as he could. The time flashing at the start of each “poem” became really distracting to me because there were moments where many pages of text added up to 2 seconds on Reynolds’ timeline. There was no way some of the interactions could have been as brief as his timeline indicated. Maybe since we’re dealing with ghosts, time is different. I don’t know…

      Also, I think this boxed in his writing some. I felt him purposefully keeping the interactions with the visitors brief but in a few instances, was left scratching my head thinking WTF! I didn’t even understand what deep meaning Will was supposed to take away from some of the encounters. If all of those things happened in a matter of 60 seconds, I think Will would have turned around, went back upstairs, and taken some Advil. I understand the purpose of the ending, but I didn’t feel that it was successful in accomplishing what it was supposed to. Meaning, I have NO CLUE what Will is going to do. Go kill the guy. Not kill the guy. Maybe that is the point…

  2. As for PATINA… I did not “read” this, I listened to the audiobook. So I am unable to get very specific in my comments about it. I liked Patty better than I liked Ghost, but in a Newbery discussion I wouldn’t be able to get into specifics about why. I didn’t think PATINA’s plot had as many holes as GHOSTS’s plot (mainly unbelievable character responses, the Coach) but I thought PATINA’s plot really dragged. I wasn’t as invested as I was GHOST’s.

    I did like the way Patty’s relationship with her mother was complicated and thought the focus on diabetes was good. But having listened to the text and not read it, I lack examples to show any distinguished qualities here.

    Overall, I thought this was so-so and couldn’t see myself voting for it. Although, students in my class enjoy both of these track stories so far, very much!

    • This is probably why, if one serves on the actual Newbery Committee, each book has to be “read” and not “listened” — especially when a voice actor could so easily alter the perception of a character or even the plot progression (and tone).

  3. Leonard Kim says:

    In the previous post, I compared Patty’s character favorably to the kids in HELLO UNIVERSE. The book may grow out of Patty’s situations with her family, fellow students, and the team, but it’s really about her character. We get to know Patty through her responses to events, and unlike HELLO UNIVERSE I don’t think she reduces to easy, short description. If I had to pick one, it might be something like, “she pushes herself” but even that is her response to things, which has complex origins.

    This is unlike Virgil being “shy.” Steven offered nice examples of how Kelly illustrates this feature of Virgil, and I agree she does a good job with that. But thinking about this relative to PATINA, I think I want to know why Virgil is shy rather than having that characteristic be assigned to him by the author. (If this formation is there, it didn’t stick with me.) I now think HELLO UNIVERSE is actually a plot-driven book. The characters are as the author fashioned them, and the book seems more about what happens when you intersect the bully, the shy kid, his dream girl (I don’t actually find Valencia that interesting a character – she has admirable qualities, but sort of has to be in order to be a somewhat generic object of affection), and the shepherd of fate.

    I don’t know that PATINA rises to the level of most distinguished. I think Jason Reynolds’ writing is not quite consistent enough in voice, pacing, style. For example, whenever the subject of Frida Kahlo comes up, PATINA seems to become a different book, and like the book MILES MORALES becomes when the subject of poetic forms comes up, or even the anagrams of LONG WAY DOWN. I feel like Reynolds can’t avoid including educational information vegetables in his middle grade books, but doesn’t integrate them satisfactorily — in PATINA and MILES MORALES it’s a bit of half-hearted this-is-what-they’re-doing-in-school justification. And (breaking the rules) Ghost just happens to be a world records buff and Genie happens to keep question notebooks. Habits like this, which appear across his various books, may contribute to the impression given by Roxanne and others that Reynolds ability to differentiate disparate characters’ voices within and between novels could be questioned.

    Random observation – when discussing age appropriateness of THUG and others, the argument is sometimes made along the lines of “this reflects what members of certain communities know and experience.” I agree, but in light of this, it’s an interesting wrinkle that Patina (and Rose in MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON) are close to socially conservative people (e.g., Patty has to mind her nails before seeing her mother.) Maybe it’s a generational characteristic of the communities, but it’s also hard to see her in the same world or party as Starr. They have similar school situations, but maybe we shouldn’t conflate their characters or their readerships.

    • Leonard, isn’t wanting to know why Virgil is shy rather than just exploring how Virgil is shy kind of wanting the book to be a different kind of book? Every story doesn’t need to be an origin story, does it? I mean, people are often just shy, for no particular reason (whether assigned that fate by an author or by God).

      I would actually argue that Reynolds overdoes it with Patina’s “origin story” in terms of her running. She was too self-aware of running for her Mom’s legs (as opposed to Ghost who had to come to realize he was running from his past) and it just felt kind of heavy-handed.

      I do agree about Reynolds always wanting to get educational stuff in there (and apparently only liking open endings!). The anagrams in Long Way Down seemed especially random.

  4. I was underwhelmed with Patina. Characters from GHOST were not as clear or vivid as they needed to be, depending readers bringing knowledge from the first book to make sense of some of Patina’s reactions. I did like the focus on her and her circumstances, but it felt thin. There simply was not enough meat here, and while I could attribute this to Jason being a male and Patina being female, I think it was more that this is a series of books where the characters will strengthen in each outing and individually the books are not as strong.
    I also think sometimes we pay too much attention to writers we like when we create our lists of nominees. We can’t read everything so we find titles that feed our love of an author rather than doing the huge task of reading it all. In this case, I would have preferred LONG WAY DOWN as Reynolds’ better book of 2017.

  5. I don’t have much to add to the discussion here, but this doesn’t rise to the top for me, either. I echo Carol’s observation that the characterization seems paper-thin, and agree that perhaps, when the series is done, the whole will be equal to the sum of its parts.

    Though I certainly liked PATINA way more than GHOST – the characterization is crisper, more nuanced – it felt fairly plotless and the tone was inconsistent. I liked Patty’s snappy, can-do attitude and I loved her interaction with teammates (the waltzing will stay with me a long time), but the light-hearted moments felt occasionally out-of-place, if not downright bizarre.

  6. I thought the main characters were strong and that Patina was better developed than Starr or Malu. I especially liked the little sister and their relationship. But I agree that it was boring plotwise. I’m opposite of Joe–I liked Ghost much more.

  7. Monica, I guess it’s good we’re here to balance each other out! 🙂 The anagrams didn’t bother me too much, I just didn’t entirely believe that particular kid was really that into anagrams. Or maybe that he was thinking about anagrams while also thinking about his brother’s murder? Not sure.

    Oh, I forgot to say I agree with everyone that Long Way Down is his much better book of the year.

  8. Community as a theme was developed beautifully in this book. Showing how self-reliant Patty needed to give up control and allow herself to be just one element of several ‘teams’ – relay, school project, family – tied the elements of this book together in a strong tight bow.

    I found the characters enjoyable if not terribly nuanced.

    I will agree the plot was boring. The focus on where the little sister sat in the car let me know an accident was on the way. I did not, however, catch on to the need for a jump rope in HELLO UNIVERSE.

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