The Crossover

Common Sense Media says

Soaring, poignant, poetic story hits all the right spots.




ALA Best and Notable BooksCaldecott Medal and HonorsCoretta Scott King Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

This book, written in verse, exposes more students to a different side of poetry, transcending conventional parameters to convey the soaring, sweeping, fast-paced movement of the basketball court. Basketball rules teach life lessons, and the story introduces and defines new vocabulary words.

Positive messages

Positive messages about the importance of family, responsibility, problem solving, and education are prevalent throughout the book. 

Positive role models

Through all of the main character's struggles, he remains a positive role model, mainly because of the support he receives from other positive figures in the book, including his father, mother, and coach. Unlike many books aimed at preteens and teens, The Crossover offers a positive example of an intact family with active, involved parents and uses adults to provide a guiding influence instead of turning them into caricatures. 


There's one incident of violence in which one brother knocks into the other, causing his nose to bleed.


Typical middle-school boy-girl crush stuff, in which, for example, boys discuss the size of a girl's backside and middle schoolers kiss. A husband and wife have romantic moments, with their son overhearing their discussions and knowing that silence meant they were having sex. 


Some mild name-calling, mainly by characters in the throes of sports-related trash-talking.


Air Force 1 basketball shoes, Krispy Kreme, and NBA teams and star players are mentioned, mainly to set the scene for discussion or to facilitate understanding of a character. Consumerism comes up for discussion in the context of promoting healthy eating over junk food and to acknowledge the questionable values of a star promoting a particular shoe line. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that author and poet Kwame Alexander's ​The Crossover is a poignant novel in verse that mixes basketball, family, and coming-of-age themes and includes serious issues regarding adult health and a parent's life-threatening condition. It won the 2015 NewberyMedal and a Coretta Scott King Book Honor, and may inspire a discussion about healthy lifestyle choices and the impact of those choices on people and their loved ones. There's mild name-calling when characters are in the throes of sports-related trash-talking, and sexual content is limited to middle-school crushes and a kiss. The novel offers a positive example of a loving, intact family with active, involved parents and uses adult characters to provide a guiding influence. 

What's the story?

Josh and his twin brother, JB, are inseparable, on and off the court. With the support of their father, a famous basketball player, they're poised to have a great season, maybe even win the championship for their junior high. Then things start to change. JB starts to spend more time with girls than with Josh, their dad is hiding a health issue that could change all of their lives, and Josh begins to lose his way. One big mistake, and he's suspended from the team, estranged from his brother, and wondering how much time he has left with the brightest star in his world: his father.

Is it any good?


Wow. Kwame Alexander's THE CROSSOVER is a fast-moving, poignant, rhythmic ride that will leave readers breathless and in tears. Written in verse that's at times boundless and at other times masterfully restrained, it could have been just another ode to urban life, the world of sports, and teenage basketball phenoms. Instead, readers realize within a few pages that they're in for much more. Alexander tells the stories that need to be told: intact families of people who care for one another more than they care for the game, strong role models who support their children's dreams, and the realities faced by a young person growing up in today's world. 

Readers will fall in love with the characters, feeling the ache of loneliness, the heavy weight of worry, and the joy of family fun. Parents will love the opportunities the book presents for positive, deep discussions, as well as its slyly hidden life lessons and basic good values.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sports books. Why are they so popular with kids and adults? What kinds of themes come out in a sports story?

  • When you buy products endorsed by an athlete with a bad reputation, do you feel like you're supporting the athlete's behavior?

  • Have you ever worried about a friendship changing because one of you got a new interest, such as sports, music or other friends? How did the situation turn out?

Book details

Author:Kwame Alexander
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Sports and martial arts, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication date:March 18, 2014
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Awards:ALA Best and Notable Books, Caldecott Medal and Honors, Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors

This review of The Crossover was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential School Tools