The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In The Crossover, Kwame Alexander has produced an evocative and heartfelt love song to basketball, and an honest look at sibling rivalry and family conflict. Thirteen year old Josh and Jordan are twin brothers, both immensely talented and members of the same high school basketball team. At 13 years old, they have their whole lives ahead of them, and pushing them to greater heights is their Dad, Charlie, himself a former basketball champion.
As the season progresses, Josh finds Jordan, once his closest companion, drifting away into a relationship with a new arrival, Alexis. Coupled with a sense of abandonment, Josh also sees his father’s health deteriorating and experiences a sense of powerlessness that is palpable.
The structure of this verse novel works really well as it manipulates language to emphasise Josh’s growing loneliness, as well as the excitement and adrenalin-rush of the basketball games he and Jordan play in. In fact, once the story kicks in, one forgets it is a verse novel- and that is a great strength of the writing here.
Some readers struggle with verse novels because of the short form of the text, but I think this really adds to The Crossover, giving it an immediacy and verve that compliments its subject matter.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved this book. The fact that AFL is a major character in the book really helped. The fact that I read it around the 1 year anniversary of losing my Dad in a car accident really helped too. It was a case of the right book at the right time for me.
Shelley and her Dad are living the lives of ghosts following the death of her mother and brother in a car accident two years ago. Still caught in their grief, they are in limbo – feeling guilty if they are happy about anything. Josh, Shelley’s childhood friend and her brother’s best mate, is always in the background offering support to Shelley which makes her uncomfortable, but she can’t pinpoint why and neither can we – yet.
Shelley starts at a local Catholic school on a scholarship halfway through Year 10 and hopes it is a new beginning, a chance to “draw a line between one day and the next”. There she meets Tara, a football tragic like herself, and Shelley is drawn into the world of the fanatic Glenthorn supporters who attend training, and everything else they can wangle their way into. Mick (Eddie) the new recruit from WA befriends Shelley and she is thrilled. Slowly Shelley’s life feels like it is taking a turn for the better. However, as the football soaked part of her life takes off, Shelley finds her family, and her new friend Tara, don’t understand it. Tara withrdraws from her, her father bans her from going to training and Josh can’t understand why Shelley is happy to go to the Glenthorn games, but not his own Raiders games (where she and her brother also played).
This is a gentle book, which encourages you to stick with Shelley, even though she sometimes is VERY naive and more than a bit frustrating. I will not post spoilers, but there are revelations in the last third of the book that helped to make sense of it all and I was very satisfied with the ending – feeling quite happy and uplifted. Definitely recommended for anyone over the age of 12.