cover image Swing


Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. Blink, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-310-76191-4

High school junior Noah has an unrequited crush on his friend Samantha, and when he discovers a handful of love letters from the 1960s, he is inspired to create mixed-media poetry that expresses his feelings. Noah had never planned to share the work with Sam, but then his well-meaning best friend, Walt (aka Swing), sends one of the poems to her anonymously. Meanwhile, someone is peppering the town with American flags, causing tension in the community as residents speculate about the meaning of the gesture. Things come to a head when Sam’s ex-boyfriend becomes a suspect in the flag mystery, and Sam is convinced that the accusation is racially motivated. Alexander and Hess (co-authors of Solo) embrace the malleability of free verse, heightening emotions with shifting styles and rhythms, and though Swing’s voice steals the show, the bantering friendship he and Noah share also shines. Interspersed throughout, the discovered letters and Noah’s art poetry highlight the power of physical artifacts to inspire action and provide a tie to flags’ symbolic meaning: “The one thing it should mean for everyone is freedom. Mind, body, and soul. Red, white, and blue. America the beautiful. The greatest love story yet to be.” Ages 13–up. [em](Oct.) [/em]