The Crossover
Kwame Alexander
ISBN 9780544107717
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
2015 Newbery Medal, 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
5 stars
Keywords: basketball crossover family friendship kwame-alexander poetry

The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

Meet charismatic Josh Bell, a 12-year-old poet and ace basketball player. Josh narrates in stanzas, and proves he's both scholar and athlete, with his sights set on Duke.

Josh's identical twin, Jordan ("JB"), is also a gifted ball player. Josh is "an inch taller, with dreads to my neck," while JB gets his head shaved once a month. JB is the jumper; Josh is the slasher, and the master of the crossover ("in which a player dribbles/ the ball quickly/ from one hand/ to the other./ As in: When done right,/ a crossover can break/ an opponent's ankles"). School comes harder to JB, but he's always up for a wager. The twins bet that if JB scores the last basket of the game, he can cut off Josh's dreads. Josh agrees to let him cut just one, but JB accidentally trims off five. Their mother then makes Josh cut them all. Tension smolders. When JB gets interested in a "pulchritudinous" new girl, Josh acts as his brother's Cyrano de Bergerac.

Alexander carefully charts, through a series of poems, Josh's simmering pot building to the boiling point. Josh lets loose on the basketball court, nearly breaking his brother's nose. It's the start of a downward spiral, but Josh's parents refuse to let him succumb. Despite the damage to the brothers' relationship, the novel brims with evidence of the family's deep respect and love for one another. Full-bodied characters and spellbinding wordplay will keep readers riveted to find out if the brothers can mend the breach in their once iron-clad bond.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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