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It’s tough to live up to your parent’s shadow, especially so when your own life has taken a tumultuous turn. Living under the shadow of his former rock star father, Blade copes through his father’s drug addiction and his mother’s passing through music. After an unexpected revelation, however, he sets out on a journey of self-discovery in Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess’s brilliant new novel. Told through poems, text messages and other tidbits, this work of verse fiction tackles a question we all have posed at one point or another in our lives: what constitutes our own self?

"[SOLO] possesses an innate ability to relate to teens no matter where they come from....Bold and unapologetically real, SOLO is one of 2017’s absolute must-reads."

Winner of a 2015 John Newbery Award for THE CROSSOVER, Kwame Alexander is no stranger to writing beautiful prose. In BLINK, there was an even mix of poems that were simple to understand, a glass wall, and poems that elegantly wove meaningful elements requiring analysis. “Purple Rain” was one of my favorite poems; even it’s only a couple lines long, it holds a keen sense of foreshadowing and anticipation. I’m also not sure if there was some kind of correlation between the handwritten poems and the typed-up ones, but I definitely enjoyed the handwritten ones more.

What shocked me the most about SOLO was that even though I basically have nothing in common with Blade, I got the feeling that we were actually quite similar. We both are at crossroads in our life and are at our “coming of age.” I think self-discovery is a universal step that all teens must pass through, and sometimes do not know how to approach. While I am not saying that SOLO is your absolute remedy for a serious case of lost identity, I do think that it has the potential to appease those with it; it makes readers feel that they are not alone in their thoughts. That’s why I found this book to be so special: it possesses an innate ability to relate to teens no matter where they come from.

On another note, let’s talk about the actual story. It’s hard to imagine understanding a collection of poems creating a well-developed story, yet SOLO broke all my expectations in all domains. I’m not sure of Alexander or Hess have a passion for music, but I felt a love of music seep through this book’s every corner; Blade’s passion for music was truly tangible.

After climbing to number seven on the New York Times Hardcover YA chart two weeks after its release, SOLO has garnered much-merited, massive acclaim. Bold and unapologetically real, SOLO is one of 2017’s absolute must-reads. 

Reviewed by Rachel D., Teen Board Member on August 29, 2017

Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess