Young Adult Novel, Swing, Serves Up Both Laughter and Tears

Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. Published by Blink, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2018.

“While I’m waiting

by the flagpole

baking beneath sun

hot as the equator,

someone walks up

behind me,

covers my eyes,

and whispers

in a voice

smooth as silk:

Guess who?” 

It’s Sam, the girl Noah has known since third grade, and who he’s been in love with ever since. Now, Juniors in high school, life is a little more complicated. Sam has a steady boyfriend, but Noah’s best friend, Walt, tells Noah that doesn’t matter. She will soon be available. Walt is an incurable optimist. After both of them getting cut from baseball tryouts, Walt is determined to get on Varsity Senior year.

“I’ll tell you this Noah. I WILL make the Varsity baseball

team senior year. Bet on that. I’ll practice harder than


From now on, just call me Swing.”

Walt has decided to become the ultimate cool, so besides taking on the moniker, Swing, and other dubious (according to Noah) persuits, tries to get Noah interested in jazz. But Noah thinks:

“…jazz sounds like

what biting into a lemon

would taste like

if you could bear it.”

When Noah buys his mother a purse at a resale shop, and discovers old love letters inside, he is inspired to write anonymous letters to Sam. But he doesn’t give them to her. When Walt takes charge and sneaks them into Sam’s bag, Noah is furious.

Baseball, and the strange appearance of American flags cropping up all over town, weave themselves through this novel, written in verse. Two best friends: Noah who is White, and Walt, who is Black, are just trying to navigate adolescence.

Like Aristotle and Dante, which I reviewed last time, this novel is filled with the clever banter of two young men who are smart and funny. The ease of reading this text carries the reader through the story in a hurry. This is a novel particularly appropriate for this moment in our history. Just be prepared to not only laugh, but to cry as well.




About stephanielowden

I am the author of two middle grade novels: Time of the Eagle, published by Blue Horse Books, and Jingo Fever, published by Crickhollow Books. Time of the Eagle is a survival story and takes place during the fur trade era in the Lake Superior region. Jingo Fever takes place during WWI and deals with bullying amidst an anti-immigrant atmosphere.
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