Monday, May 12, 2014

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Ali lives in Bed Stuy, a neighborhood known for problems.  But Ali keeps his nose clean - taking care of his younger sister Jazz, taking boxing lessons, and hanging on the stoop with his best friend Noodles.  The biggest adventure in the boys' life is when they go searching for some black yarn for Noodles' brother Needles who knits to help control his Tourette's Syndrome.  When the boys are invited to an adults-only party a block away they know they have to find a way to get the right clothes to look like they belong there.  But a mishap at the party leads to problems beyond what Ali can handle all on his own.  This is one of those books that sticks with you after you finish it.  The depiction of urban life feels so realistic that the reader is pulled into the daily interactions with everyone in the neighborhood.  Every single character is completely fleshed out and I loved them all despite their flaws.  I was so drawn into Ali's world that I felt my own tension ramping up as the boys realized the problem they had.  Great, slow-building read.