Gr 7 Up–Blade Morrison is on shaky ground. The death of his mother years ago still haunts him, and he’s continually disappointed by his father Rutherford, a rock legend who has long grappled with drug and alcohol addiction. Rutherford’s humiliating behavior at Blade’s high school graduation, Blade’s older sister Storm’s revelation of a devastating family secret, and his girlfriend Chapel’s betrayal send the teenager reeling. Looking for answers, he heads to Ghana, where he begins to heal. This novel in verse reverberates with the energy of spoken word poetry. Alexander and Hess have a knack for making ordinary language seem lyrical, and the narrative is conveyed through dialogue, text messages, and news reports as well as through Blade’s terse, first-person, present-tense musings. References to rock and roll songs and artists as varied as Lenny Kravitz, Guns N’ Roses, and Stevie Nicks give the book an infectious rhythm. Though the writing is at times slightly unpolished, it perfectly captures the teenage voice. Blade is all highs and lows, veering sharply from the intoxicating embrace of first love and lust to feelings of heartbreak and alienation. Some conflicts are wrapped up too neatly and others are forgotten entirely, but the authentic character development and tone will strike a chord with young adults. VERDICT Hand to music lovers, reluctant readers, fans of spoken word poetry, those who appreciate Alexander’s work, or anyone seeking a tale of self-discovery.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal (School Library Journal)
Two Starred view from Media Break! The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love. On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion. A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult) (Media Break)
Betrayed by those closest to him and stunned by a family secret, 17-year-old Blade Morrison flees his comfortable but chaotic life as the son of a drug-addicted rock star. Seeking answers and closure, Blade travels to the Ghanaian village of Konko, where he gains new perspective on family and belonging. Writing in free verse, Alexander and Hess, who recently collaborated on Animal Ark, strongly communicate Blade’s frustration and disappointment (“I have taken for granted/ the palm trees of Cali... planted by Spanish missionaries/ in the 18th century.... They don’t belong here./ And neither do I”). Lyrics from Blade’s songs (and interspersed references to songs from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, and others) emphasize the importance of music in his life, both as a link to his family and as a way to express himself. Blade’s interactions with his father, a Ghanaian young woman named Joy, and a child named Sia are especially poignant, so much so that these secondary characters can draw focus. But many readers will identify with Blade’s struggle to find his place in a family where he feels like an outsider. -- PW (Publishers Weekly)
Blade Morrison begins his story by disclosing, “I am / the wretched son / of a poor / rich man.” Master storytellers and poets Alexander (The Crossover, 2014) and Hess (The Day I Met the Nuts, 2009) have joined forces to pen a rhythmic, impassioned ode to family, identity, and the history of rock and roll. The only things 17-year-old Blade can count on as the wealthy but neglected son of famously erratic rock god Rutherford Morrison are his soulful guitar ballads and his girlfriend, Chapel. When Rutherford disappoints Blade one time too many and they end up fighting, Blade’s sister reveals a long-guarded family secret. Suddenly the music leaves him; when Chapel is no longer there to anchor him either, Blade sets out to discover more about his own past. A mix tape of classic rock hits guides him from Los Angeles all the way to the small village of Konko, Ghana, where a delay in his journey brings him unexpected fulfillment. Scattered throughout the novel in verse are some of Blade’s original rock ballads, though every poem feels like a song, pulsing with Alexander’s signature lyrical style. Blade ends up finding much more than what he expects: self-discovery, community, and a deeper understanding of what family means. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Alexander has a history of appealing to teens of all sorts, and a Newbery to his name; don’t expect this collaboration to stay on shelves long. (Booklist)
About the Author
Kwame Alexander is a poet, speaker, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of twenty-four books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. His other works include the novels He Said, She Said and Booked, as well as his nonfiction debut, The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life. He is the cofounder of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program. Visit him at KwameAlexander.com.
Mary Rand Hess is a poet, screenwriter, editor, and author of several books, including Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wide World in Poetry and Pictures (National Geographic, 2017), which she coauthored with Deanna Nikaido and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander.