The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
A book for middle grade readers (age 9 - 13) , written in verse, about basketball players? Not much about that description would put this book on most adult’s “to read” list. I picked it up after learning that it was the 2015 Newbery Award winner. It took about five minutes to realize why this book was chosen as the most distinguished of the year. It is a exceptional novel for young teens and adult readers.
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering."
This is not your fusty old classic written in iambic pentameter. Twelve-year-old Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan have the moves and the attitude to be big stars on the basketball court. Raised by their father, a former Olympian and pro turned stay-at-home dad, and their mother, an assistant principal, the boys have a stable and loving family watching their backs. They are inseparable until Jordan starts to show increasing interest in the lovely female friend Josh calls “Miss Sweet Tea.” Worried about his dad’s health, confused and frustrated with his brother, Josh starts to butt heads with those around him and ultimately lashes out and has to deal with the consequences.
The verse styles range all over from musical to blank verse to concrete poems and more. The poetry is an important part of the feel of the novel and the marvel is that it never seems forced or false and it lends Josh’s voice a real sense of authenticity and personality. The pitch and pace of the novel is just right, effectively transmitting the strong emotions of the characters and building the story. Told over the space of several months in their 7th grade year, this novel deals with issues that all people can relate to - growing up, family loyalty, independence, self respect, pride, anger, fear, regret. Forgiveness.
This book is recommended for all ages. While it is a great choice for reluctant readers, don’t stop there. Read it yourself and share it with any young teen in your life.
Review by Amy