“The Crossover” Fails to Make a Basket

Jessica Reid , Social Media Editor

Is “The Crossover” a beautiful work of poetry or a novel meant for fifth graders?

           Over summer 2015 seventh through tenth graders were required to read “The Crossover” before the next school year started.  The book consists of one large poem about two twin brothers in middle school, who love basketball.  They take great pride in their basketball abilities and have a great relationship with their dad, who was a champion of the sport himself.  In the course of the book the brothers encounter challenges in school, jealousy, and girl struggles.

           Although the book is full of poetic word choice, it is not a book meant for high school students.  Most of the pages are at least 40 percent white space and all of the words are part of a middle school vocabulary.  The New York Times accurately describes the book as one meant for children between the ages of 9 and 12. There was no critical thinking needed at all to understand the concept of the book,  which is a large part of the high school English program.  Once school started back up again the students were given two lessons on “The Crossover,” none of which related to any English topics at all.  They were all about describing your identity and writing what parts of it you like or need to work on. Even the teachers seemed to be confused as to why they were teaching the lesson.  My tenth grade English teacher surprisingly admitted her personal opinion about the book, stating that tenth grade students are way above the level of “The Crossover.”  These were all such juvenile lessons especially for many high school students who are more than capable of reading the eleventh and twelfth grade book, “Unwind.”    Even though it was not meant to seem that way giving these students the assignment of reading “The Crossover” is almost a little insulting, considering all the hard work given to us during the school year.  All it really did was turn students away from even reading the assignment, mostly because they didn’t think it was worth their time.

Furthermore, seventh and tenth graders are at very different levels of learning, obviously the tenth graders being more advanced, so there is no reason that the two grades should be assigned the same book.  Most of the topics from seventh grade English, high schoolers could easily do, or else what would be the point of more advanced curriculum?  Many teachers have also been attempting to defend the book by describing it as beautiful poetry, which is partly true.  Yes, the book is poetry, but beautiful is not the word that comes to mind when describing it, especially when the main conflict relates to one twin brother getting jealous that his brother has a girlfriend, not to mention that these boys are both 12 years old.

Juvenile conflicts were a large problem with “The Crossover,” but the word choice also looks like it came out of an elementary school book.  With words like “zoom,” “boo yah,” and “kaboom” being used to describe major points of the book, it gives the content a childish feel.  Not to say that there isn’t good word choice at all in the book, but there are no words that would have to make a tenth grade student stop and think or become a new word to add to their vocabulary.

In order for Robinson to actually help students benefit from their summer reading they need to make changes, which include giving seventh and tenth graders different books to read, keeping the books at age level material, and giving students something that reflects the high intellectual ability that Robinson always expresses all of their students obtain.