I read a Coretta Scott King Award Winner last week entitled “When I Was The Greatest” by Jason Reynolds. I hope some other people in class have an opportunity to read this story and check it off our book bingo sheet. If I was to say one thing about the book, it would be simply be “it’s a good story.” The narrative is never stagnant and action is happening regularly, keeping everything fresh and alive.
This book covers inner city culture and the joys and struggles of the protagonist, Ali. The book is told in the first person. The main theme of the story is loyalty, and the extremes people go to to prove it, even if it proves detrimental for themselves. This book arrives at the question, “When do we let go of unhealthy friendships?” or “How do we solve our friends and family?” Ali is a young teenager, fifteen, in Brooklyn living with his mother and sister. Soon enough, conflict in the book arises when two brother move in next door with their mother. Ali forms a friendship with the two brothers, Noodles and Needles (the book uses nicknames for everyone). Needles has likes to knit to keep his turrets under control, Noodles likes to draw comics, and Ali likes to box. Even though Needles is the brother with a “disability” it is clear that Noodles is going to be the one to drag the other two down, but not in the traditional sense of drugs and crime. The book centers around the preparation for an exclusive party, and the fifteen year old boys are somehow admitted, and this is where the serious conflict arises. I won’t give the entire book away but it does not disappoint.
If you want to know more about inner city culture for young adults then I would suggest this book. Also if you want to study writing and how to develop “setting as its own character” then this book is for you. The book also offers great commentary on the disability of Needles and how the brotherhood of Needles and Noodles is bound to fail without intervention. The book is a great guide for young adults on the importance of family, friends, and hobbies over being drug down into the muck of a life of crime and depravity.