The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Reviewed for this blog by Andrea, Windsor Library

Middle school twins Josh and Jordan excel at basketball, family relationships, and trying to get girls, all told in verse. Loved by many reviewers for it’s emotional punch and for imitating the “pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game”, this book might be a bit slight on plot, but not too much else.

I am completely smitten with this one. Its characters are completely realized and, unfortunately, a bit unusual. I’d be hard-pressed to find 2 parents that are so involved in a teen character’s life AND so prevalent in the text. As per the usual themes of teen lit, parents often times don’t factor into the story in a major way (please feel free to disagree with me on this; as with anything, my opinion is only a product of my limited reading). I do think this has a bit to do with the age of the main character and his twin; family is more prevalent in a teen’s life during the “middle” years. It’s in high school when a kid begins to exist more fully on his or her own – getting a license, applying to a job or a college, etc (helicopter parenting excluded obv). And I know that this type of freedom, for better and for worse, comes at a younger age for some kids (hello, rambunctious, unsupervised 10-year-olds in the library!), but for literature’s sake, this type of family unit is refreshing. They are a great set of characters off which to play the story. Without giving us too much description, we see each of them through their actions and dialogue, a perfect representation of what good characterization is.

What I think this book excels most at, though, from the set of Printz criteria, are voice, style, and design. Josh is both confident and unsure of himself and Alexander plays off both for each well-crafted poem. Not to mention smart and sly in his metaphor and imagery. The verse/lyrics-style is so complementary to the voice and views of this character. There is lots of wit and charm, possibly an ode to the education that his mother instills in him. His (dare I say) flow is full of sparks of energy and rhythm, good rhythm. I found myself dangerously close to bouncing my head to the beat of the words. And the design – yes, yes, yes. The layout of each poem – both the highly stylized ones and the straightforward ones – lend themselves to the content, as any poetry should. It would be cruel to try to replicate the design here, so I won’t, but with each emphasis, whether it be in the spacing, size, or shape of the words, the story becomes all the more richer.

No bones about it, I like this one. I think I even like like this one. What does everyone else think? Will it hold up in the long run?

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One thought on “The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

  1. Sara Ray

    I love books in verse although many people don’t. I agree that parents to not appear (positively, that is) much in young adult literature but the majority of what I read are about teens with problems (and lack of decent parenting may have something to do with those problems). I do think that the middle grade fiction would have more of a connection to parents. Makes sense! The younger teens that come to my library for programs tend to always come into the library with their parents. The older teens tend to come on their own. I look forward to checking this one out!

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