At one point, Josh tells the reader "identical twins / are no different / from everyone else, / except we look and / sometimes sound / exactly alike." The novel is peppered with Josh's observations like this that indicate that while he and JB are technically different people, the two of them share a connection that makes it seem at times as though they are almost the same person. While Josh doesn't see a problem with this at first, this does start to become an issue as JB falls in love with Miss Sweet Tea and Josh's jealousy takes over. Given the role that Miss Sweet Tea plays in the boys' lives--she's JB's first foray into the more adult world of romance, and Josh blames her for stealing his brother--it suggests that as the boys grow up, their normal teenage shift in the direction of independence will be complicated by the fact that, as twins, their senses of self are more entwined than they might be otherwise.
While Josh's direct observations about his brother in the first half of the book focus on and celebrate the ways in which they're a team, other observations suggest that Mom and Dad have actually done a lot to encourage their sons to develop individually. Josh's main concern about being a twin is that he doesn't want to be mistaken for JB; to this end, he wears his hair in locks while JB keeps his shaved. However, he also notes that over the summer he attended three basketball camps, while JB attended Bible camp instead. Though Josh sees this as a slight--he understands that JB's interest in Bible camp has little to do with the Bible and everything to do with getting to hang out with girls--it's telling that Mom and Dad are willing and able to honor the fact that their sons are very different people by enrolling them in activities that speak to their individual interests. Taken together, these facts suggest that the identity that the boys share is something that's gradually changing as they get older, and that each boy thinks about it differently. While Josh's need for individuality extends only to his desire to not be mistaken for his brother, JB takes this a step further by distancing himself from the things the boys both love in favor of individual pursuits.
When Miss Sweet Tea comes on the scene, it becomes clear to Josh that she's going to come between him and his brother: JB seems suddenly less interested in basketball, and Josh starts spending long stretches of time alone while JB is with Miss Sweet Tea. For Josh, this is offensive on two levels. It first throws the boys’ differing maturity and popularity levels into sharp relief, as Josh feels left out that he's the only one of his friends not dating. Then, and even more hurtful, there is the fact that JB seems to not have time for Josh anymore, thereby forcing a change in their years-long, close relationship. This forced independence proves very difficult for Josh and the pain of feeling abandoned by his brother bleeds over into his ability to effectively play basketball--at one fateful game, Josh passes the ball to JB with such force that JB can't catch it and it hits him in the face.
Following this incident, JB ignores Josh for weeks while Josh continues to grapple with watching his brother grow up and move away from him right before his eyes. Much of Josh's narration after this game focuses on JB and the loneliness that Josh feels. This suggests that Josh is much more concerned with how his brother is growing and changing and how JB's changes affect him. What he misses, however, are all the ways in which he too is growing and changing during this time. Because of his forced isolation, Josh becomes far more introspective and more concerned about Dad, whose rapid decline in health begins about the same time that JB is injured. Though Josh doesn't understand in the moment, the fact that his separation from JB refocuses his attention on someone else offers him a roadmap for how to deal with these changes after Dad's death. When Miss Sweet Tea (whom Josh finally begins to call by her real name, Alexis) invites Josh to accompany her and JB to a college basketball game, he eagerly accepts. He understands that if he wants to spend time with his brother, he needs to accept that JB has other people in his life who are important. With this, the novel ultimately positions Josh and JB's budding independence less in terms of separating from each other, and more in terms of learning to be accepting and welcoming to others aside from the two of them.
Brotherhood and Growing Up ThemeTracker
Brotherhood and Growing Up Quotes in The Crossover
But, as I got older
and started getting game,
the name took on a new meaning.
And even though I wasn't into
all that jazz,
every time I'd score,
or steal a ball,
Dad would jump up
smiling and screamin',
That's my boy out there.
Keep it funky, Filthy!
To get ready for the season, I went
to three summer camps. JB only went to
one. Said he didn't want to miss Bible school.
What does he think, I'm stupid? Ever since
Kim Bazemore kissed him in Sunday school,
he's been acting all religious,
thinking less and less about
basketball, and more and more about
That boy is special, and it doesn't hurt
that Chuck "Da Man" Bell is his father.
And mine, too.
And while Dad is telling us another story
for the hundredth time, Mom removes the salt
from the table and JB goes to the buffet.
He brings back three packages
of duck sauce and a cup of wonton soup
and hands them all to me.
Dad pauses, and Mom looks at JB.
That was random, she says.
What, isn't that what you wanted, Filthy? JB asks.
And even though I never opened my mouth,
I say, Thanks,
And so each time
I count the locks
beneath my pillow
I end up with thirty-seven
plus one tear,
On the way home
Dad asks if we should stop
I tell him I'm not hungry,
plus I have a lot of homework,
I skipped lunch today
and finished my homework
are no different
from everyone else,
except we look and
JB comes running out of the bathroom.
What'd she say, Josh? Come on, tell me.
She said she likes me a lot, I tell him.
You mean she likes me a lot? he asks.
that's what I meant.
You're twins, not the same person.
But that doesn't mean he has to stop loving me.
I prefer to be called Josh, Dad.
Oh, really, Filthy? he laughs.
I'm serious, Dad--please don't call me
that name anymore.
JB and I look out
at the exact moment
we pass by the mall
and I know exactly
what JB wants.
Dad, can we stop
at that sneaker store
in the mall?
Yeah, Dad, can we? JB echoes.
And the word we