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The Crossover
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 28, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kwame Alexander's newest novel, THE CROSSOVER, is a verse tour de force. It's told through poems by the main character, Josh Bell a.k.a. Filthy McNasty. He and his twin brother Jordan (JB) are talented basketball players, but jealousy threatens to split them apart when JB gets a girlfriend.

I love how many levels of story are woven into this novel.

THE CROSSOVER is the kind of book I never would've picked up when I was younger because I didn't like sports. There is the sports story promised by the cover, all leading up to a big championship game, but it is far from the only plotline. Nor is it the most important plotline. That's reserved for all the family stuff.

There's the relationship between the brothers, at times super close and at other times strained. In fact, the first real schism in the story is when JB accidentally forces Josh to get his head shaved. Before, Josh's locks were his pride and separated him from his bald brother. Then, there is the relationship with the boys' parents, especially their father, a former basketball player and the man who taught them the game. Their parents' worries are on the fringe of Josh's awareness, but most readers will be able to put the pieces together. And, although she is a small part, the girl "Sweet Tea" is still shown to be a person, a talented basketball player in her own right and pissed off by the physical signs of Josh's jealousy, frustration, and confusion.

All of this is conveyed so elegantly by the language.

Alexander's poetry flows easily and tells the story in short pieces, making THE CROSSOVER inviting to reluctant and casual readers. At the same time, it's a sophisticated and rewarding form. For instance, the poems recounting games use lots of clever formatting, including different font sizes and diagonal lines to convey the intensity and movement of the action. They also use more rhymes than the other poems, like the rhythm of a bouncing ball. Unfortunately, I did think the poem describing the championship game was out of place. It was an abrupt switch in tone from the poems before and after it, even if it did match the other basketball poems. There might've been stylistic switches between other poems, but rarely a tone switch. It was jarring, and right at the height of THE CROSSOVER's effectiveness.

Going back to appealing to multiple types of readers, THE CROSSOVER is set in middle school and aimed at younger readers. I felt that there wasn't much that separated it from a young adult novel, except periodic references to the grade level or school assignments like THE GIVER. It particularly felt more young adult to me when Jordan contemplated which college he wanted to go to to play ball. I'm sure middle school kids daydream about a future in the NCAA, but this felt more immediate and serious. I gave some leeway since Jordan was the son of a successful player and has a better chance of making it, but it still felt off to me. What I'm getting at is I think high school students would really enjoy THE CROSSOVER too, but I can't see many high school students picking up a book about a thirteen year old.

THE CROSSOVER thrilled me, and I can't wait to read it again and pick more closely through the details.

I rarely have time to do that with all the review books on my shelves, but hey, I can take it one poem at a time. (Advantage of the form!) I also think I'll return to it because it is such a great family story. Oftentimes, children's books dispatch with the parents in order to focus on the kids doing things they probably wouldn't get away with if there were two loving, attentive parents in the picture. Josh's parents teach him, guide him, and discipline him like real parents.

Look, no one has to convert me to novels in verse. I've thought that they're the bees' knees since I first read Sonya Sones. I think THE CROSSOVER has the power to convert new readers to the awesomeness that is novels in verse. It certainly convinced me of its own awesomeness.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2015
I've been putting off reading this book because it's a sports book, and I don't really enjoy most sports books. Which is really rather odd since I do enjoy watching them. But after reading this I can easily see why it has received so much acclaim. It's a beautifully written, powerful story about family and change. I sat down to read this and I was immediately impressed with the verse. The language drew me in and made me care about Josh and his family. The exciting poems that were about actually playing basketball were so well done that I could see Josh on the floor making for the basket.

It always amazes me when an author creates a powerful story in verse, in so few words. The characters here are vivid and clear, each one shines through as an individual, which is all the more interesting since the story is told from Josh's point of view. The plot revolves around Josh's love of basketball, his father's refusal to see a doctor, and his brother's gaining a girlfriend. Except for basketball, Josh's world is shaken to the core by his father's ongoing refusal to address physical problems, and his brother's focus on his new girlfriend. His frustration leads him to do something he greatly regrets. The climax was a shock although I should have seen it coming, there were certainly enough clues. But when you don't want something to happen, it's easy not to be prepared when it happens, even when it's in a story.

I'd say this is definitely one of the best books I've read in the last year and I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am not usually a fan of novels written in verse. I need a big meaty story if I'm going to enjoy a book, especially a book about sports. I loved The Crossover. I'm a sports fanatic, and this book is filled with tons of well written basketball action that speaks to everything that true basketball fans love about the game. Josh has such a strong narrative voice that I could easily envision him out on the court flying high enough to throw down a crowd pleasing dunk.

The language is dazzling, from Josh's game time raps, and confrontations with his brother, to his powerful conversations with his dad that convey an astounding amount of emotions in just a few spare lines. The author utilizes unique constructions, fonts, and styles that make the text even more dynamic. This is not a standard novel, yet it will serve as a welcome introduction to reading novels in verse for many young readers.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is its unflinching look at family. This is a real family facing real problems that will serve to impact all their lives. None of them are perfect, but they stand by each other and love each other unflinchingly, even when they are confronted with the worst possible outcomes. Throw into all this two boys coming of age, growing apart, and discovering their own paths through love and grief. This is a powerful book and an enthusiastic recommend for young readers ages 10 and up.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 15, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Crossover is a fun read, employing a poetic, hip-hop writing style to convey the high-energy feel of youth basketball from the perspective of twelve-year-old hoops prodigy, Josh Bell. Josh and his twin brother JB, having grown up with a basketball in their hands thanks to a father who starred in the European league, are not only their team's star players, but also best friends. At least until JB becomes smitten with new girl, Alexis. Can Josh and JB's bond withstand the intrusion of Miss Sweet Tea and their father's deteriorating health? And in the face of these challenges, can their team win the county championship? Grab this book and find out!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2015
As a former librarian, I wonder what books children and young adults will read and enjoy. As the mother of a 13-year-old, I wonder what books will pull him away from his computer games. I believe that The Crossover by Keane Alexander is such a book. It is full of action and contemporary references, as well as realistic family dynamics. The poetry filled the book with movement and song; it is almost as if it gave flesh to the book. I wish there were more books with male protagonists like this in this age group. I could not put this book down. I cannot wait to share it with my son.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2015
Basketball Rule #5

When
you stop
playing
your game
you’ve already
lost.

This book is a slam dunk! Novels in verse are amazing because every word and turn and phrase is poetry, yet the story reads like prose. Kwame Alexander’s <i>Crossover <i> is a basketball game in a book. Each chapter takes you to places on the court and you feel the action even in the moments where there isn’t any. I especially liked the Basketball Rule chapters. I don’t know the game very well, but I know life and this book is as much about life as basketball! The twin brothers, Josh and Jordan, are great characters and the dad, Da Man, is the best dad. I love his lines and his advice to his boys, “Boys, your talent will help you win games, Dad says,
but your intelligence, that will help you win at life.”

This book shoots and scores for anyone who reads it. I'm guessing if you're a boy and you love basketball it's completely perfect, however, I'm a girl and I don't know the game all that well, and I still loved it!

I just finished it and I’m all fired up about it! Also, it's $1.99 on iTunes Books and Amazon right now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2015
I write this as a reader who doesn't know much about basketball, but loves a great book. The first few pages of The Crossover had me doubting, especially since I felt I was listening to a language I did not know, on a radio station that wasn't tuned. Soon after those initial pages I tuned in, was caught, and could not move away until the story ended. With a cleverly designed plot, plenty of emotions, beautiful images and a sprinkling of shiny fancy words, The Crossover is a book I will be recommending to all who want to read a good story, whether they like basketball or not.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a clever book! It's written for about 5th to 7th graders, and although told in hip-hop rhyme throughout most of the book, it cleverly does so to the point where you're not bored, you're not lost in who's who, and well, it just is a very cool, neat story of twin boys who love their basketball and their dad. Has a bit of a surprise ending too. Takes about 30 minutes for an adult to read this but by far, it is one of the best books I've read this year. If you have boys who do not like to read, then be SURE to get them this book! Highly recommend!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2015
I received this book as a gift but when I let one of my students borrow it he didn't want to put it down. I let him keep that copy and got myself one on Amazon instead. Any book that makes a 12 year old boy not want to put it down is a great book in my opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2015
I saw the author being interviewed on the PBS NewsHour. And although I don't have any interest usually in books written for non-adults, I just loved the concept of this novel. So I ordered it. And I couldn't put it down. I teach a class for senior citizens (I am one myself) at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (University of Miami). This class is a writing one. And one of the "students" writes only poetry that rhymes. And another talks about his 16-year-old grandson loving rap and the grandfather thinks Frank Sinatra is the best. So today I read from this novel. And that group of a dozen or so told me not to stop. The poetry is varied. Yes, there's some rap. But there's also free verse. And couples. And traditional poetry in short chapters with the chapter title being the first line of the poem (chapter). You don't have to love basketball to love this story of a family of four--there are identical twin brothers--with a mom who's the principal of the school the boys go to and a dad who was a star basketball player. But something happened. So he's a stay-at-home dad. These are just wonderful parents. And the first person narrator it totally believable. He likes to read. I think this is a must-read for almost anyone. I think it will be the gift I give in the near future.
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