Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Readers will cheer the birth of this comedian.

STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!

Eleven-year-old Yumi Chung doesn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch, but she secretly harbors dreams of becoming a comedian. Shy + Asian + Girl = Comedian? Why, yes. Yes, it does.

Winston Preparatory Academy is a shy person’s nightmare. Yumi hides from the beautiful girls and the bullies who call her “Yu-meat” because she smells like her parents’ Korean barbecue restaurant. This summer, her parents are demanding that she go to Korean summer school, or hagwon, to get a near-perfect score on the high school entrance exam—because that is the only way to attend an elite college, like her superachiever sister, a 20-year-old med student. Yumi collects all of her fears and frustrations (and jokes) in her Super-Secret Comedy Notebook. When a case of mistaken identity allows her to attend a comedy camp taught by her YouTube idol, Yumi is too panicked to correct the problem—and then it spirals out of control. With wonderful supporting characters, strong pacing, and entertaining comedy bits, debut author Kim has woven a pop song of immigrant struggle colliding with comedy and Korean barbecue. With their feet in two different cultures, readers listen in on honest conversations, full of halting English and unspoken truths painting a realistic picture of 21st-century first-generation Americans—at least a Korean version. By becoming someone else, Yumi learns more about herself and her family in an authentic and hilarious way.

Readers will cheer the birth of this comedian. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55497-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A satisfying, winning read.

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    Best Books Of 2016

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BOOKED

Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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