Last year one of the highlights of my Fall reading was Matthew Quick's lovely Boy21, which only failed perfect marks from me for two reasons: the title character's changing felt the faintest bit unrealistic, and the basketball failed to compel me at all. The Crossover has neither of those problems: I care nothing for sports, not even the tiniest bit, yet I felt as if every scene on the court was electric. And Josh evolves perfectly, subtly, without artifice.
And talk about a great opening. The first few bits of verse, written like rap, hooked me. They were absolutely stunning. The rest of the book's writing is great too, but I was extremely disappointed that Alexander chose not to write the whole thing in a similar cadence. (Then again, if he had he may have been accused of gimmickry.) I'm extremely fond of verse novels regardless, so it was no huge problem for me. But man, it would've been great.
Josh is a great kid, one who feels completely like a real boy. The characters around him were a lot less compelling, unfortunately. Realistic? Sure. Not particularly distinctive? Well, aside from the parents, who I loved, not really. I feel like I barely got to know Jordan, or the others (whose names I cannot remember, not a good sign). But the parents! God, the parents. The tough mom and the fun but tragically foolish father were huge highlights of the story for me, and I wish we'd had more time to spend with them.
I also wish that the dad hadn't died, but it was handled very well despite me wishing that something, anything else had happened. I saw it coming a mile away (it was not so much foreshadowing as much as a giant red flag, really), and I hoped like you wouldn't believe that the story wouldn't take that particular turn. Despite that, it didn't feel like a cheap emotion grab. Nothing in this story did, though, and that's why I enjoyed it so much.
I can imagine hordes of middle school boys (and girls, of course) reading this for a class and loving it. It may have a bit of geeky words to it, but it's very well-done, and emotionally honest in a way that, I think, can really speak to kids.