The Crossover

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NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER – 2015

The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander

Age: 9+

Interests: basketball, sports, brothers, twins, family, romance, sibling rivalry

After this book: read Rebound, a prequel about Josh and JB’s father

This novel, consisting entirely of freestyle verse, tells the story of Josh and JB, twin basketball sensations. Their father was a basketball star and has coached them from an early age to love and excel at the sport. Their mother, a high school principal, rules the roost and instills in them a work ethic and sense of morality. At age twelve, however, things begin to change. JB begins dating, and Josh feels abandoned and resentful. The basketball season ratchets up as the championship game looms nearer and Josh buckles under the pressure, shooting a pass at his brother that nearly breaks his nose. His mom won’t tolerate that kind of behaviour and suspends Josh from the team. As if that wasn’t bad enough, JB won’t even talk to him, which isolates Josh even more. Meanwhile both boys are growing more worried about the health of their beloved father, who refuses to see a doctor despite his high blood pressure and family history of heart trouble. When a heart attack puts him into a brief coma, Josh is really adrift, without his game, his father, or his brother. Still, he works to regain everyone’s trust and good will, and his mother allows him to play in the championship final game. Tragically, his father has a final, fatal heart attack that night, just as Josh scores the winning basket. Josh and JB draw together after the funeral, sharing once again their love of the game.

This book is a quick and involving read, an excellent choice for reluctant readers, or those who are resistant to poetry – driving home the fact that rap is poetry! And the very first page is a crowd-pleaser – a wild ride of a poem ricocheting around the page. It should definitely pull any reader in. Naturally a good choice for basketball enthusiasts, but this book will entertain everyone. The rhythmic, rap-style poetry mimics the banter of teen boys, and gives us Josh’s interior thoughts in a vivid, streamlined fashion.

Throughout Josh’s troubles, his family is a model of strength and caring. Even when the boys are estranged from each other, the support of their parents keeps everyone moving forward. Nice to have positive parental role models, and it’s also refreshing to see a book about modern, urban adolescence that is devoid of inappropriate language (apart from mild on-court trash talk), sexual content (apart from kisses), and situations involving alcohol, drugs or crime. This family is pretty squeaky clean, actually, but still believable and likeable.

A great pick for anyone, especially for those who just can’t get into dated or slow-paced novels. And for younger, precocious readers who like to ‘read up’, this is a rarity, a book about high school kids without ‘iffy’ content.

 

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.