Speaking of the Present Tense….
I feel like everyone was talking about THE CROSSOVER as soon as the ARC came out, and I’ve been looking forward to talking about it here. I expected the biggest question would be “the age question”, so was tickled to see Eric comment here that he can’t remember why it would possibly be considered YA. One of my favorite things about this book is how well it treads the “crossover” audience, embracing the adolescent perspective squarely from a very “safe” vantage point. I can see it going as wide as 9-15, though I think the target is around 11-13, squarely within both Newbery and Printz territory. We can count on it being considered by both, though it’s harder to tell how well it will fare.
Voice and style here stand out to me. I’m pretty critical of novels-in-verse, as I think they usually fail to be a good novel, or good verse, and often both. Here, the style matches the narrative perfectly, and Alexander shows his chops at rhythmic free verse. He utilizes line breaks and form in service of narrative tension and voice…this isn’t just prose chopped off after a few words. We get to know Josh first through his voice, on the very first page, and here, the immediacy of the present tense seems justified, as each poem can be taken as a present tense snapshot, moving us forward with spaces between where we’re allowed to imagine what else is happening.
The character development as shown between Josh and his brother, Josh’s devotion to the sport competing with his devotion to the game, and his growing pains regarding friends and girls, is very effective. The novel starts to show some thinness around the characters of the parents, who feel more and more like plot devices as the narrative moves on, and so the plot a device itself, instead of reality. I think this is one of those treacherous areas with a novel-in-verse… traditional plot just doesn’t seem to fit comfortably there, and it starts to feel like the author is insisting we follow the arc. Of course, if it doesn’t, we tend to say we feel the book doesn’t “accomplish” as much as a novel does. (Does the Newbery practice novel favortism is an age old question…) But if I set aside these novel question here, I see a Newbery contender just in the short-form presentation of Josh as a character: his passion, his questions, his joys and frustrations laid out on the tongue so you can feel them like the ball in his hand.
(SPOILER UPDATE. There are spoilers in the comments below, so proceed forewarned.)
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at email@example.com
SLJ Blog Network