Reynolds, J. (2014). When I Was The Greatest. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The language pulled me right in to this Brooklyn, New York story. Instantly transporting me to Ali’s neighbourhood and his stoop where he sits with his main man, Noodles, and Noodles’ brother, Needles. The three young teenagers discover what it means to have each other’s back as they negotiate entrance to an ultra hip party at MoMo’s.
Grittiness abounds their existence but Ali determinedly stays sweet. “A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing. When you one of Doris’s kids, you learn early in life that school is all you need to worry about. And when it’s summertime, all you need to be concerned with then is making sure your butt got some kind of job, and staying out of trouble so that you can go back to school in September.” The character development is convincing, especially when the boys are faced with a situation at the party when they need to rely on each other. From that night forward, the definition of family is challenged and redefined for them and their loved ones.