I just finished The Crossover by Kwame Alexander and I'm completely blown away. I love that novels in verse is now an accepted thing, but when Alexander was shopping around his novel, it was a bit of a novelty. However, after the success of The Crossover, and I'm sure the Newbery Medal didn't hurt either, Alexander has started his own imprint, Versify, that "reflects Alexander’s vision that accessible and powerful prose and poetry—in picture books, novels, and nonfiction—can celebrate the lives and reflect the possibilities of all children."
I'm a big fan of poetry, and an even bigger fan of this trend of writing a novel-in-verse. (See my review of Jason Reynolds' Long Way Down.) In fact when I mentioned it to Mini Me, she decided that she needed to write her next novel in verse. And maybe I do too.
When I first finally accepted myself as a 'writer' (in college), I was writing a lot of abstract short stories, somewhat in stream-of-conscious style, somewhat in verse. It wasn't always easy to understand, and I got reamed a lot for it in my Creative Writing classes. Even by professors who accepted me into their class so they knew from my writing samples what they were getting. I learned a bit about what to give and take with critiques without fully losing myself. And though my writing style is completely different now, I still love the fact that writing a bit differently is more widely accepted now.
The Crossover (Do not keep reading if you don't want spoilers.)
I'm finding it very difficult to write about this novel without spoiling everything. `
I love Kwame Alexander's creative use of word position and font while telling Josh's story. The novel centers around Josh and his twin, Jordan AKA JB, who are two middle schoolers who play basketball, just like their dad. The family dynamics are spelled out easily, and the interaction between (mainly) the three of them is heartfelt and wonderful. At its heart, this novel is about a family. But, yes, it's about basketball too, and relationships, and coming of age.
Josh iterates 'basketball rules' throughout the novel and intermittently talks about a game in 'sportscaster' fashion. I could feel the tension, jealousy, and loss that Josh feels when his twin starts dating someone. It's not necessarily that he is smitten with the same girl (though arguably he may be), but he wants that time back with his twin.
As a twin myself, I get it. It was hard for me when Melissa and I went our separate ways in college. Even harder was that first summer back home together, which ended up being my last summer at home. (After that, I went to summer school every single summer of my five years at UCLA. It wasn't because I double majored, it's because I was wishy-washy on finally deciding that Biology major. After all the classes I took, it's possible that I could have triple majored.) There's a lot of growing pains that are going on for Josh, but not necessarily Jordan.
SPOILER ALERT: There's an impossibly difficult inevitability that's written into every word of the book that made me dread coming to the conclusion. Kwame Alexander's words pull me through what I know is going to happen, and pull me through beautifully. Even as my heart breaks.
The Crossover is a quick and compelling read, full of imagery, heart, and emotion. A great read for any middle school kid on up. Even if they're not into basketball. :D
As a bonus, Alexander's prequel to The Crossover was just released last month. Rebound is a novel-in-verse-SLASH-graphic novel that chronicles a young Chuck Bell through his own coming-of-age basketball story. I can't wait to track this one down!
Some of my favorite sections are excerpted below. DO NOT LOOK AT THEM IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED.
Tell Dr. Bookworm!
I'm not into sports, but I love reading sports-related novels. What's one of your favorite sports-related novels?
SIDE NOTE: Little Lion took the featured photo of me above in the the school library holding The Crossover and Booked, a coming-of-age soccer story. I read The Crossover through Cloud Library on my phone. The words/juxtaposition worked out, but I think I need a hard copy of Rebound to see all the graphics in the way they were meant to be seen.