Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Monday, November 23, 2015

“Crossover” Wins over “Love is the Drug”

I read “Crossover”, by Kwame Alexander, after seeing Penny Kittle, who recommended it for boys.  I have to admit, when I picked it up and saw all of the poetry in the book, I was turned off.  I’ve read books with prose before, and always feel like I don’t get a good sense of the character.  “Crossover” was unique.  The first poem was like a rap song: it had rhythm to it.  I could hear the character reciting it to me.  I immediately fell in love with characters Josh and Jordan Bell.  These boys are twins who are crazy at basketball.  We see the world through the adolescent eyes and voice of Josh Bell.  Kwame becomes a middle grade boy in this book, he’s incredibly believable.  When Josh’s brother starts pulling away to find his own identity, Josh acts out and gets himself into a difficult predicament where he loses not only his brother, but basketball.  The story takes the reader through the thought process of a teenager when they are presented by the first problem they have that they can’t solve easily.  Josh loses so much, but gains his own identity without basketball or being a Bell twin.  The first poem in the book, I used as a quick write to introduce poetry to my grade 8s.  We recited it and then mimicked the rhythm created by the poem.  The poem “Dear Jordan” cut me. 

For anyone who has a sibling and has let distance begin to divide you, the poem is heartbreaking.  Again, I used this as a quick write and showed the kids what I would write to my sister, but have struggled to say to her.    
“Love is the Drug” isn’t a bad read.  It was a guilty pleasure, that I
would think about all day and gravitate towards to read a couple more pages whenever I could.  Why didn’t I vote for it?  Well “Crossover” was amazing and there are plot holes everywhere you look in this book, I resigned myself to this fact and just kept reading.   The book begins with Bird waking up after a crazy party and not remembering anything about what happened to put her in the hospital bed.  She becomes suspicious when she is fed a lie that Coffee (her drug dealing friend) gave her a hallucinogen.  She starts to unravel the lies that are built up around the truth of that night
amidst a deadly virus that has swept through North America.  Something about that night is 
connected to the virus and as she gets closer to finding out the truth, Roosevelt (a federal agent) will pressure her to give up on her battle to remember.  Sound like a bunch of plot holes?  Well you would be correct!  Without giving anything away, I’ll try to dissect the book.  What country would recruit 18 year old kids who haven’t even graduated and tell them information that is classified at a party!?  Come on!  I’m not buying that in the slightest.  Thus, everything about how agent Roosevelt stalks Bird is completely ridiculous. 

Other than the blatant disregard for believability, Johnson does bring up a few interesting ideas.  Can a democratic government manipulate the whole country into believing a lie?  Would they terrorize those that are fighting to find the truth?  Are the CDC and health agencies manufacturing viruses to use in bio warfare?   I found it original that the “bad guys” weren’t the classic Russian or Islamist radicals.  Instead, they were homegrown all Americans.   This is a book that if you can get over the glaring inconsistencies, is an entertaining read, but not one that I would put forward in Smackdown.

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