Review: Booked

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER,  soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.  

This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!


There are several reasons why you might not think to pick up Kwame Alexander’s verse novel Booked.

Maybe you don’t like soccer. Maybe the thought of poetry makes you break out in a nervous sweat. Maybe you’re of the opinion that “kid’s books are just for kids”.

Whatever reason might be keeping you from picking up this book, that reason is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you’re a human being of any sort, this book is for you. If you’re a young person, work with young people, or ever happened to be young person, this book is for you. Whatever your age, race, gender, background, this book is for you.

Kwame Alexander is a master. There’s really no other way to put it. Pick up Booked, open it up to a random page and read any poem, and you’ll see what I mean. Alexander truly understands young people. He gets inside their heads, and brings their feelings, emotions, and experiences searingly to life through tightly-woven, brilliantly crafted poems.

Nick Hall has everything under control – he’s a star soccer player with dreams of sports super stardom, until a shocking change turns his life upside down, and leaves him questioning everything. It’s a coming-of-age story in the finest tradition, following a young person as they come to terms with their new reality and learn valuable life truths.

Odds are your childhood might not have looked anything like Nick’s, and your own experiences might have been completely different. Still, Alexander mines universal truths that all readers will be able to connect with. There’s one scene, for example, in which Nick has been caught writing in his notebook instead of paying attention in class. The teacher calls him to the front of the room, and his feelings of dread, embarrassment and frustration are so real, so visceral, that you can feel every agonising moment. I remember standing in front of the classroom, staring desperately at the chalkboard, trying to figure out a math equation and just wishing I could melt into the floor and disappear.

The Walk to her desk (pg. 116)

feels like a death march.

Each classmate you pass is

eager and loaded,

ready to fire.

No other way to look at it.

Everyone’s gonna know.

April’s gonna know.

You’re pretty much dead.

A bead of sweat drops

from your eyebrow.

Ms. Hardwick had to see it

hit her desk.

You hand her the notebook.

She glances at it, then shoots

a look that says,

You’re going down, Hall! 

Now, I might be a bit biased, but one of my favourite characters is Mr. MacDonald, the librarian, who not only raps, but who gets books into his young charges’ hands. It’s so refreshing to see a librarian who is a) male (there are actually guybrarians!), and b) is a positive influence in young people’s lives (no grumpy old lady librarians in this book!).

I loved this book. I really, really loved this book. What else can I say? You need to read it. So, read it! You can thank me later.


Hardcover, 320 pages
April 15, 2016 : HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Raincoast Books


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  • Reply Raincity Librarian - MONDAY FUNDAY – May 29, 2017

    […] a young person, Alexander’s voice just rings so incredibly true. You can check out my review here, and be sure to find a copy at your local library and experience it for […]

    May 29, 2017 at 5:18 am
  • Reply Drangonfly

    omg I AM SOOOO reading this one! Soccer, family, school, YA.. love, a great voice… All things I love! and no way I won’t after reading your wonderful review Jane! I feel like my son [who happens to be a soccer player too] is approaching a “new realities” stage in his life so I CAN’T wait!

    May 31, 2017 at 4:18 pm
  • Reply colorfulbookreviews

    Wow. Thanks for sharing. I had passed on this one because I’m very picky about novels in verse and the kids don’t really care about soccer, but it sounds like this is one of the rare novels-in-verse that strikes an appropriate balance and speaks to universal themes.

    June 4, 2017 at 4:50 am
  • Reply Krysta

    I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but you are very persuasive! And I am fascinated by the inclusion of a male librarian. Statistically, there aren’t many!

    June 6, 2017 at 12:31 am
  • Reply Raincity Librarian - Poetry Friday – A Handful of Verse Novels

    […] already written a full review of this fantastic verse novel, so I’ll keep this brief – Kwame Alexander writes verse […]

    June 9, 2017 at 4:21 am
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