Ali Cross

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Ali Cross Book Poster Image
Exciting first case for detective's middle-school son.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Like other books in the JIMMY Patterson series, Ali Cross is all about getting kids to read, so the action-packed plot is also packed with references to books by other good middle-grade authors, e.g. The Parker Inheritance and Brown Girl Dreaming. The story is set in Washington, D.C., and includes a lot of local detail. Several scenes take place in a courtroom, showing the various roles of the participants including the judge, jury, attorneys -- and supportive families.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family love, friendship, stepping up, doing the right thing, and being kind even when you're being wronged yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ali is smart, tenacious, and loyal. He doesn't always do what he's told (like when he sneaks out at night to save a friend, or gets on his PS4 when he's grounded, also to save a friend) but accepts the consequences when it catches up with him. There's a notably high trust level between Ali, his siblings, and their parents, and his father in particular is notable for being kind and positive even when it's a real struggle. Ali's friends are also very loyal -- and don't hesitate to let him know when he's made the wrong choice (or even the right one that still has bad repercussions). One kid commits burglaries because his father and brother threaten him.


Ali's detective work leads to his being held prisoner by a burglar who twists his arm and punches him. Ali's father, a famous detective, is under threat of prison and disgrace, and the whole family's under stress, because he's accused (falsely) of violence against the father of a murder suspect. Meanwhile, the man's in a coma and feelings run high. Ali sometimes loses control of his temper and punches his tormentor, for which he gets consequences (the tormentor, not so much). A kid has a violent father who threatens him, forces him to commit burglary, and assaults women (his wife and a cop) during the story. Guns are stolen in the course of a robbery and then returned.


A few "butt" references. A cop calls a criminal a "scumbag."


A PS4 plays a big role in the plot, and some of the action takes place in an online game. Ali gets a lot of his crime-fighting tips from watching old Law & Order episodes. A Christmas gift bag includes gift cards from Safeway and Walmart. Other businesses, e.g. Best Buy, are part of scene-setting.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ali Cross is the first book in a new middle-grade mystery series by best-selling author James Patterson, featuring the son of Patterson's adult-detective series, Alex Cross. Named after Muhammad Ali (and using "Cassius Play" as his online avatar), Ali's determined to follow in his father's crime-solving footsteps. And when his friend Gabriel suddenly disappears, Ali makes it his business to find Gabe and get him back. Ali is smart and tenacious (as his dad says, more pit bull than wise old owl once he's focused on something), and has a strong, loving family to support and help him. Also good friends who help a lot and also make it clear when he's done the wrong thing. Ali does some sneaking out and other things he's been told not to do -- but he's trying to save his friend's life. There's a creepy adult who forces his son, Ali's classmate, into crime, and some scary encounters with bad guys, but good hearts and good cops prevail. A few "butt" references, and one "scumbag."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byapplezmom January 15, 2020

Awesome book

I bought this book for my 10 year old who would only read non fiction. I read the cover and the first few pages and it really drew me in so I hoped it would hel... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old April 30, 2020

Great mystery book

This book gets more and more interesting as you start reading it. In some parts there is a lot of suspense, making hard to stop reading once you start. I sugges... Continue reading

What's the story?

ALI CROSS is the youngest son of Alex Cross, the African American detective hero of James Patterson's best-selling adult mystery series, set in Washington, D.C. Ali's determined to follow in his father's footsteps. And, when Gabriel, one of his middle school classmates, goes missing instead of showing up for their regular online game, Ali's determined to find him and bring him back. Ali's dad and stepmom (also a cop) are supportive and the police on the case, but also distracted by a police-brutality court case that could change the family's lives forever. So Ali figures it's mostly on him and his friends to find Gabe.

Is it any good?

James Patterson delivers an appealing hero, engaging characters, plenty of action, and a raft of book recommendations in this series debut featuring the young son of his noted detective Alex Cross. A master storyteller who's determined to make more kids like reading, he's off to a promising start as middle-schooler Ali Cross matches wits with online gamers and real-life criminals in his quest to find and save his missing friend.

"The whole thing was legit creepy, like something out of movies Gabe and I had seen together. He was probably laughing his butt off about this somewhere. I'd kill him later. Just as soon as I made sure he was okay."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about detective stories, and why they're so popular. How does Ali Cross compare to others you've read? Have you ever thought you'd like to be a detective yourself?

  • Ali's older sibs excel at sports, his older brother plays for the same college that was once home to NBA star Stephen Curry, and his sister's being scouted by colleges. Do you like sports? Are you interested in pursuing an athletic scholarship by getting really good at your favorite sport?

  • Do you know any kids who are being pressured (or threatened) by family members or others into doing things they know are wrong? Is there anything you can do to help?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and middle school stories

Themes & Topics

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