As an avid reader and lover of children’s literature, I was eager to pick up The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. This book has received several awards, including the 2015 Newbery Medal and the 2015 Coretta Scott King Award. While it is marketed towards middle-grade readers, I found The Crossover to be a compelling and thought-provoking read for readers of all ages. In this book review, I will highlight the key aspects of The Crossover, including the plot, characters, themes, literary style, and overall impact.
Introduction to The Crossover
The Crossover is a novel-in-verse that tells the story of Josh Bell, a talented young basketball player, and his twin brother JB. The book is set in a suburban neighborhood and follows the brothers as they navigate their family relationships, basketball games, and personal growth. Readers are immediately drawn into the story through Alexander’s vivid imagery and use of basketball terminology. The book is divided into four parts- “Basketball Rulez,” “Jump Ball,” “Layups,” and “Slam Dunk”- which mirror the structure of a real basketball game.
As the story begins, readers are introduced to the Bell family and their love for basketball. Josh and JB are both skilled players and play on the same team. Their father, Chuck “Da Man” Bell, is a former professional basketball player and their mother, Crystal Bell, is a nurse. The family’s love for basketball is evident in everything they do, from their conversations at the dinner table to their daily routines.
About the Author: Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is an American author, poet, and educator. He was born in New York but spent most of his childhood in Virginia. Alexander has written numerous books for children, including picture books, middle-grade novels, and young adult literature. His writing is known for its lyrical style, engaging storytelling, and diverse representation.
Alexander’s passion for writing began at a young age. He started writing poetry as a teenager and went on to study writing and literature in college. After graduation, he worked as a freelance writer and eventually found success as a children’s author. Alexander’s books have won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award.
The Crossover’s Plot Overview
The Crossover is primarily a coming-of-age story that explores themes of family, identity, and growing up. At the start of the book, Josh and JB are inseparable brothers who share a love for basketball. However, as they grow older, they begin to grow apart. JB becomes increasingly focused on his girlfriend and their relationship, while Josh is more interested in pursuing basketball as a career. This leads to tension between the brothers, and their relationship becomes strained. Meanwhile, their parents- Chuck “Da Man” Bell and Crystal Bell- also have their share of problems and are going through a rocky patch in their marriage.
The plot of The Crossover is fast-paced and compelling. Alexander expertly weaves together different storylines and themes, creating a cohesive and impactful narrative. Readers are taken on an emotional journey as they watch the characters confront challenges and experience growth.
One of the most powerful moments in the book is when Josh’s father has a heart attack during a basketball game. This event forces Josh to confront his fears and reevaluate his priorities. He realizes that his family is more important than basketball and begins to work on repairing his relationship with his brother. The book ends with the family coming together and supporting each other through their struggles.
The Unique Style of The Crossover
One of the most unique aspects of The Crossover is its use of verse. Alexander’s writing style is poetic and rhythmic, making the book read like a song or a spoken-word performance. The use of verse also adds depth and complexity to the characters and their emotions. The book is written from the perspective of Josh, and readers are able to see into his mind and feel his innermost thoughts and feelings. The verse format also allows for moments of humor, clever wordplay, and heightened drama. Overall, the style of The Crossover is both entertaining and impactful, making it a truly unforgettable reading experience.
In addition to its unique style, The Crossover also stands out for its themes of family and identity. The book explores the complex relationships between family members and the challenges that come with growing up. It also touches on issues of race and socioeconomic status, highlighting the ways in which these factors can impact a person’s identity and experiences.
Overall, The Crossover is a powerful and engaging novel that will resonate with readers of all ages. Its unique style, compelling plot, and relatable characters make it a must-read for anyone who loves great literature.
Main Characters and Their Development
Josh Bell: The Protagonist
Josh Bell is the narrator and protagonist of The Crossover. He is a talented basketball player with a passion for the game. Josh’s love for basketball is evident throughout the book, and readers see him work hard to improve his skills and become a better player. However, Josh’s journey is not just about basketball- he also faces challenges in his personal life. For example, he struggles to come to terms with his father’s health issues and the changes in his relationship with his twin brother, JB. As the story progresses, Josh learns to be more open and vulnerable with those around him, and he becomes more comfortable with who he is as a person.
JB (Jordan Bell): Josh’s Twin Brother
JB is Josh’s twin brother and best friend. While the two brothers share a love of basketball, they are very different in personality. JB is outgoing, confident, and flirtatious, which sometimes causes tension between him and Josh. As JB becomes more preoccupied with his girlfriend, Alexis, he starts to drift away from Josh. This causes Josh to feel hurt and neglected, and the brothers have several heated arguments throughout the book. However, in the end, JB realizes the importance of family and makes amends with Josh. JB’s character arc is one of growth and learning to prioritize what truly matters in life.
Chuck “Da Man” Bell: The Father Figure
Chuck Bell is the boys’ father and a former professional basketball player. He is a strict but loving parent who places a high value on discipline and hard work. Throughout the book, Chuck is dealing with health issues that cause tension within the family. However, despite his health struggles, Chuck continues to be a strong role model for his sons and encourages them to work hard and pursue their dreams. As the story progresses, Chuck learns to be more open and vulnerable with his family, which strengthens their bond and allows them to support each other through difficult times.
Crystal Bell: The Supportive Mother
Crystal Bell is the boys’ mother and a nurse. She is a supportive and caring parent who is always looking out for her family. Crystal is also dealing with her own personal struggles throughout the book- she has put her own dreams and passions on hold in order to focus on being a wife and mother. However, as the story progresses, Crystal begins to rediscover her own identity and pursue her interests outside of her family. This allows her to grow as a person and become an even stronger support system for her family.
Overall, The Crossover is a story about family, growth, and learning to navigate the ups and downs of life. Through the experiences of Josh, JB, Chuck, and Crystal, readers see the importance of communication, forgiveness, and unconditional love. The characters’ journeys are relatable and inspiring, and their stories will stay with readers long after the book is finished.
Themes and Symbolism in The Crossover
The Importance of Family
One of the central themes of The Crossover is the importance of family. The book explores the complex dynamics within a family and the impact that these relationships can have on a person’s life. Through the struggles and conflicts that the Bell family faces, readers see the importance of forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love.
The Power of Basketball and Sports
Basketball is more than just a game in The Crossover– it’s a way of life. The book explores the power of sports in bringing people together and fostering a sense of community. However, the book also highlights the dark side of sports and the pressure that athletes- especially young ones- can face. Through Josh’s character, readers see the sacrifices and hard work that go into being a successful athlete, as well as the impact that injuries and setbacks can have on a player’s career.
Growing Up and Facing Challenges
The Crossover is a coming-of-age story that explores the challenges and joys of growing up. Throughout the book, readers see the characters face difficult situations and make tough decisions. However, the book also emphasizes the importance of resilience and perseverance in overcoming obstacles.
The Role of Music and Poetry
Music and poetry play a significant role in The Crossover. Josh is not only a talented basketball player but also a budding poet. Through his poetry, readers see the power of self-expression and the way that art can provide an outlet for emotions and creativity. The book also uses music as a way of establishing tone and mood, with references to different songs and artists throughout the text.
The Crossover’s Literary Style
The Use of Verse and Prose
The combination of verse and prose is a defining feature of The Crossover‘s literary style. Alexander’s verse is rhythmic and poetic, with a strong emphasis on sound and language. His prose, on the other hand, is more straightforward and plot-driven. The use of both styles creates a well-rounded and engaging reading experience, with moments of humor, drama, and pathos.
The Significance of Wordplay and Vocabulary
Throughout The Crossover, Alexander plays with language and employs clever wordplay. For example, he uses basketball terminology in unexpected ways, such as “dunking” on someone in a verbal argument. The book is also peppered with slang and colloquialisms, giving it an authentic and relatable feel. Additionally, Alexander introduces readers to new vocabulary words, making it not only an entertaining read but an educational one as well.
The Impact of Rhythm and Pacing
Alexander’s use of rhythm and pacing is masterful in The Crossover. The book is divided into four parts, each mirroring the structure of a basketball game. Within each section, Alexander uses different poetic devices- such as repetition, alliteration, and rhyme- to create a sense of momentum and urgency. The book’s pacing is fast-paced and compelling, making it difficult to put down once started.
All in all, The Crossover is a stunning piece of literature that deserves all the accolades it has received. Kwame Alexander’s unique style and masterful storytelling make it a must-read for anyone interested in coming-of-age stories or sports literature. The book’s themes of family, identity, and growth are universal and relatable, making it a book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend picking it up- you won’t regret it.