WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST by Jason Reynolds

WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST

Age Range: 12 - 18

KIRKUS REVIEW

A literary story of growing up in Brooklyn.

Ali, 15 going on 16, lives in Bed-Stuy with his mom, a social worker, and his little sister, Jazz, who has a knack for markers. He hangs out on the stoop with his two BFFs, brothers nicknamed by his sister: Noodles and Needles. Needles, the older, suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, and Noodles and Ali look out for him. In the lead plotline, the three boys crash an illegal party in the basement of a nearby brownstone and then deal with the fallout. Action notwithstanding, the story actually reads more like a character study of Ali and his sister and friends and a tender homage to this seemingly dangerous neighborhood. Even though Reynolds thoughtfully (and most likely truthfully) depicts the neighborhood as one where guns and drug transactions are seen regularly, readers don’t necessarily feel the danger due to the tender and deeply protective relationships of the characters, who are realistically if not exquisitely drawn. The plot, though compelling, takes back seat to them, and what unfolds is a moving and thought-provoking study of the connectivity among a family and friends that plays upon and defies readers’ expectations.

An author worth watching. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4424-5947-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2013




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