/* Starred Review */ The “greatest” in the title doesn’t just refer to the scene in which 15-year-old Ali defends a friend with Tourette syndrome by throwing a winning punch at a party—it also hints at what an accomplishment Reynolds’s novel is. Set in the non-“Cosby” part of Brooklyn, in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, the story centers around the party incident and the evolving relationship between Ali, his best friend Noodles, and Noodles’s brother Needles (the one with “the syndrome”). But Reynolds (half of the team behind 2009’s My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.) thematically addresses much more—race and class divisions in New York, taking ownership of one’s actions, and standing up for what’s right—without ever sounding preachy. Reynolds also upends tired stereotypes—Ali lives with his sister and bighearted mother, but his sometimes-absentee father isn’t a deadbeat, rather “a pretty good dude who just made some messed-up decisions”—while leaving in enough sass and grit to keep the story believable. Snappy descriptions (the barbershop is the “black man’s country club”) and a hard-won ending round out a funny and rewarding read. Ages 12–up. Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Jan.) --Staff (Reviewed October 28, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 43, p)
When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Avoiding the violence that has given his neighborhood a bad name, urban youth Ali spends busy days attending school, boxing and helping his family while looking out for a troublesome friend and a Tourette's-afflicted brother only to be brutally targeted in the aftermath of a misunderstanding. A first novel.--Publisher's description.