This was one of the first week’s offerings from the 2019 Sync Audiobooks for teens. (There are two new free audiobooks offered each week.) I love Kwame Alexander and wanted to listen to his latest, especially since he was reading it himself.
Genre: YA book in verse fiction
Length: 448 pages of text, 4:12 hours of audio
Setting: an American city, present day
Summary: Short version: The life of two teenage black boys in the city
Long version: Walt and Noah are best friends. Once again, they didn’t make the baseball team. Noah’s done trying, but Walt is sure he can make it next year if he just practices enough. Walt is trying to convince Noah to profess his love for Sam. Sam’s been a great friend for years and Noah wants her to move to the next level. He makes his move when she breaks up with her boyfriend (the star of the baseball team). Too bad she’d rather be friends than a couple. Walt finds himself a girlfriend. They bond over a shared love of jazz. There’s tension in the neighborhood because someone’s been surreptitiously planting American flags everywhere. Walt finds out it’s his brother, Moe, back from the war. The police find out at the same time. In a stand-off, Walt gets shot and dies.
Final thoughts: Very enjoyable. It’s much different reading Alexander’s books versus listening to them. His poems don’t sound like poetry at all. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss the start of a new poem because the titles always set you up for the topic of the poem. If you can see the page, the form of the verse makes an impact as well as the words.
I was surprised with the sad ending. It seemed like it was going to end happily. While Noah didn’t get the girl, he and Sam at least kept their friendship. Walt had a girlfriend and even made the baseball team. There was drama and discussion of how to deal with feelings, but it took a sharp, dark turn at the end. At least Noah had a chance to say goodbye to Walt after he got shot. The book is definitely representative of the life of teenage black boys. You do everything right in your life, even in the moment that the cops show up, and you still get shot.
Title comes from: Walt decided his new name was Swing. It came from his love of both jazz and baseball
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #41 for 2019, and an A in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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