The Crossover

The Crossover Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Kwame Alexander's The Crossover. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander was born in Manhattan to a family of artists and writers; his father was a publisher and his mother taught English, while his siblings are models, photographers, and work in the entertainment industry. He studied medicine at Virginia Tech but while in school, he began writing poetry as a hobby. A professor encouraged him to pursue poetry seriously, so Alexander started his own publishing company. He's been publishing poetry since the early 1990s but didn't turn to writing verse novels like The Crossover until the late 2000s. He's stated in interviews that his middle-grade verse novels are intended to bridge the gap between Shel Silverstein and Shakespeare, as well as encourage reluctant readers to read. The Crossover won the Newbery Medal in 2015 and was also recognized as an Honor book for the Coretta Scott King award. Alexander lives in Reston, Virginia and when he's not writing, he runs programs to introduce children to writing and publishing.
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Historical Context of The Crossover

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the "silent killer:" it can increase a person's risk of heart attack or stroke dramatically, and it can cause permanent and dangerous damage to one's heart before a sufferer even notices symptoms. While it's the leading cause of death among all Americans, rates of high blood pressure are even higher in the African-American community. Among African-Americans, the disease also tends to be more severe and develops earlier in life than it does in others, hence why Dad and his father die at 39 and 45 respectively. Though Josh is more focused on basketball than anything else, the novel also makes several references to the dangers of being black in contemporary America. Josh's fears when Dad is pulled over without a license and Mom's warning to Josh about the dangers of a black man losing his temper allude to the fact that black men in particular are more likely to be unfairly viewed as dangerous or threatening and, in turn, experience police brutality or face incarceration.

Other Books Related to The Crossover

Kwame Alexander has written several other middle-grade and young adult novels in verse, including Swing, He Said, She Said, and Rebound, which is a prequel to The Crossover that follows Dad's introduction to basketball. As a verse novel intended for young readers, The Crossover joins others in the booming genre including Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming and Sharon Creech's Love That Dog. Though verse narratives and epic poems like The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh have existed for thousands of years, the verse novel is distinctly modern and traces its roots to the early 1800s. One of the most famous early examples is Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, which was first published in serial form between 1825 and 1832.
Key Facts about The Crossover
  • Full Title: The Crossover
  • When Written: 2009-2014
  • Where Written: Unknown
  • When Published: 2014
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel; Verse Novel
  • Setting: An unnamed town in the U.S.
  • Climax: Dad dies during the championship game
  • Antagonist: Hypertension and death; change
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for The Crossover

Poetry: It Works! Alexander has said that he became aware of the power of poetry when he used it to successfully woo his wife in college.

Reluctant Readers. In interviews, Alexander has been open about the fact that when he was in middle school, he wasn't at all interested in reading. He rediscovered his love of reading by devouring an autobiography of Muhammad Ali, and this experience provided him with the road map for his novels like The Crossover: he hopes that by combining sports with books that are easy and fast to read, he can help convert other young reluctant readers and show them that books can be fun.