Thursday, April 18, 2019

Book Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess (2017)

Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess is the story of seventeen-year-old Blade, a musician, whose mother has died, and whose rock star father struggles with addiction. While Blade's sister, Storm, is able to remain hopeful in the face of all this adversity, Blade has a more difficult time. When he suddenly learns that he is adopted, and that Chapel, his girlfriend, has been dating someone else behind his back, Blade is blindsided and devastated, so he flees to Ghana both to escape his personal problems and to locate his birth mother, who has been living among the people of a small Ghanaian village for ten years. While in Africa, Blade works through a lot of the issues that have been plaguing him, and begins to figure out that he can't run away from his family.

Though some of the themes in this book push the envelope a little bit, this is, for the most part, a wholesome read for teens. The issue of drug addiction is treated tastefully, with an emphasis on the fact that this is a disease against which Blade's father is fighting for his life. There is the slightest hint of sexual innuendo, but the potential romantic relationships in Blade's life are mostly very chaste, and Joy, a girl he meets in Ghana, even says that the most important basis for any relationship is friendship. Characters also make casual references to attending church as though this is a typical and normal part of their lives.

The writing is solid, and the 457 pages of verse go by in a flash. Like The Crossover, this is, at its heart, a story about families, the way they sometimes fall apart, and the uncanny way they also fit back together again. I really enjoyed the book, and I think anyone who loves Kwame Alexander's middle grade work will be pleased with this one as well, though I recommend saving this particular book for older teen readers.

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