Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Award the same week that Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was announced for publication. Of course, Lee’s news totally trumped Alexander’s achievement, so to show some solidarity, I requested his novel from the library. And I was blown away.
The Crossover is a verse novel (that is, a novel told in poems) about Josh Bell, a tween boy who is a star basketball player on his middle-school team. His twin brother Jordan, or JB, is on the team with him. Together, they are an unstoppable force. Josh (also nicknamed Filthy McNasty) also enjoys rapping and is close to his parents. His mom is the assistant principal of the school, while his dad is a former star basketball player. And then, subtle changes close in: JB becomes interested in girls, and Josh begins to lose his social footing. He realizes that the future is not for certain. And then a twist changes the game entirely.
I won’t share the entire story with you, because you should read it as it unfolds for yourself. But I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that I ugly cried at the end. As in, close to Book Thief level of sobbing. Alexander hits all the right notes in a way that is poignant, painful, and utterly sincere. Josh is a colorful and interesting narrator, and as an adult, I felt empathy for the changes he went through. I believe that younger readers will also get a lot out of this book, because it is easy to become invested in, and it draws you in. I am a huge fan, and I plan to read other of Alexander’s work.