When America is not so beautiful, or right, or just, it can be hard to know what to do. Best friends Walt and Noah decide to use their voices to grow more good in the world, but first they’ve got to find cool.
Walt is convinced junior year is their year, and he has a plan to help them woo the girls of their dreams and become amazing athletes. Never mind that he and Noah failed to make the high school baseball team yet again, and Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, has him firmly in the friend zone. Noah soon finds himself navigating the worlds of jazz, batting cages, the strange advice of Walt’s Dairy Queen-employed cousin, as well as Walt’s own perceptions of what is actually cool. Status quo seems inevitable until Noah stumbles on a stash of old love letters. Each page contains the words he’s always wanted to say to Sam, and he begins secretly creating artwork using the lines that speak his heart. But when his private artwork becomes public, Noah has a decision to make: continue his life in the dugout and possibly lose the girl forever, or take a swing and make his voice heard?
At the same time, numerous American flags are being left around town. While some think it’s a harmless prank and others see it as a form of peaceful protest, Noah can’t shake the feeling something bigger is happening to his community. Especially after he witnesses events that hint divides and prejudices run deeper than he realized.
As the personal and social tensions increase around them, Noah and Walt must decide what is really true when it comes to love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.
New York Times bestselling authors Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Solo) tell a lyrical story about hope, courage, and love that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to find their voice.
Gr 8 Up-Seventeen-year-old Noah Wallace is not having any luck. He got cut from the baseball team, again. His secret crush on Samantha Worthington is unrequited. She is dating an oafish baseball rival. Noah's best friend, charismatic Walt Disney "Swing" Jones, has plans for them to get back onto the team and become the kings of cool. Noah gets his inspiration to woo Sam from love letters written during the 1960s, which he finds at a thrift store. The love letters and Swing's vast love for jazz music motivate Noah to repurpose the letters and make them his own. Swing has issues with his future stepfather, meets and falls for slightly older thrift store employee Divya, and awaits the return of his older brother, Moses, from military action in Afghanistan. Noah and Swing's party, an American flag mystery, and Moses's return significantly alter their lives forever. Alexander and Hess strike gold with this fun, witty, and intellectual YA novel. It is a free-verse poetic narrative fused with collage art and manga influences. Noah's dialogue differs from the italicized dialogue of the other characters. Readers will fall in love with scene-stealer Swing. Jazz music fans will enjoy this focus and its intersections with art, history, baseball, and literature. VERDICT This important and recommended contemporary YA will inspire young people to find their own voices and take a swing at life. A must-have. –Donald Peebles, Brooklyn Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. –School Library Journal
'Despite the easy flow of verse, there is a density to this story with its multiple elements. Lively, moving, and heartfelt.' –Kirkus, starred review (Kirkus, starred review)
'...this novel packs a punch into its shocking and extremely powerful ending straight from today's headlines.' –Booklist (Booklist)
'This important and recommended contemporary YA will inspire young people to find their own voices and take a swing at life. A must-have.' –School Library Journal, starred review (School Library Journal)