Wednesday, January 22, 2014


When I Was the Greatest

This is the Brooklyn, New York most don't see.  There are neighborhoods where the people struggle working two or three jobs trying to stay safe from the guns, the violence, and the drugs.  It's not a friendly place to be a teen.

Ali's mother works non-stop to keep food on the table and expects him to take care of his younger sister Jazz and stay out of trouble.  He remembers better days when his father still lived with them back before he went to jail. 

There may be no extras and he may have chores and a curfew, but Ali knows he has it a lot better than Noodles and Needles who live in the apartment building next door.  They spend their time avoiding the junkies and thugs and hoping their mother will come home after nights on the town with her "dates."  They only time they get a decent meal is when they eat with Ali and Jazz.

Ali spends time at the local gym working out and learning to box.  It gives him a chance to blow off some steam, and he even earns a little pocket money cleaning up around the place.  As much as Ali likes practicing his boxing skills, he is hesitant to enter the ring for any real contest.  He isn't sure he's ready.

When Noodles scores an invitation to a party known for loud music, hot girls, and alcohol, Ali can't believe their luck.  Going to the party means breaking the rules, but Ali can't resist.  He'll be back by curfew and his mother will never know.  He doesn't know he will end up using his fighting skills to rescue Needles, and in the process, risk his own family's safety.

Author Jason Reynolds takes readers into the rough life on the streets and neighborhoods of New York.  Despite the toughness, Ali's life does include a loving family determined to help the teens they know do the right thing and beat the odds and make something of themselves. 

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