Author: Kwame Alexander
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.
The first thing that has to be pointed out is how Kwame Alexander told this story – through poetry, through lyrics, through reflection on the words of other great rock ‘n’ roll songs. It’s wonderfully unique and makes for a fantastic read – not to mention, it fits the story and adds to it in the most fantastic way.
Blade works through his emotions with music and so it makes sense that a story of his journey, from his point of view, would use poetry to tell the events. Alexander’s work is beautifully written and is so easy to sink in to, to get lost in.
Blade, as a character, is definitely interesting to read about, made like that because of the writing style of the prose, but also because he’s going through something that everyone can relate to – an identity crisis – despite his individual circumstances. He’s the son of a rockstar, Rutherford, who fell off the wagon after the sudden death of his wife, and now is plastered, drunk and drug addled, across worldwide news stations.
The death of his mother and the grief of his father is definitely something that continuously affects his life – I enjoyed reading about how he tries to overcome, how he snaps and breaks and how he doesn’t give his dad the leeway to break again. He’s only 17 years old and he shouldn’t need to have this strength but it’s heartbreaking that he does.
The story is split into two parts – Hollywood and Ghana. Both are important in telling Blade’s story – Hollywood is where he is broken and lost, and Ghana is where he finds himself and builds bridges with his family once more. It’s interesting to see both the differences between the two worlds and how Blade interacts with them.
The only issue I would say I found the book is the way that child neglect and endangerment is kind of skimmed past. It would have been nice to have Blade and Rutherford especially speak about those issues directly rather than just have it as part of a memory. Alexander made such an effort to show how the family was broken and how they came back together that it seems amiss to not include that as part of the reconciliation.
Solo is a beautiful book about finding who you are, accepting your past to move into your future and music. I’d never read a Kwame Alexande3r book before Solo, and this is a book that definitely makes me want to go back and read the entirety of his works.