When I Was The Greatest Review

Title: When I Was the Greatest
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb: (from goodreads) In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should've been—where the people aren't so friendly, and even less forgiving.

Me: Amazing voice and amazing characters. Super enjoyable. (Also, look at that cover)

You go, Jason Reynolds, you go. It is completely original, absolutely addictive, and so believable. The story is never boring, because the voice truly seems to bring it to life. You know when someone is telling a story and you get so interested because the way they're telling it? That was this book. The book is a wonderfully written use of simple words to create big feelings. It really connected me to the characters, especially Ali, and the world that Ali was living in. 
And that brings me to my second point. Ali. I loved him so much.
I think that he was such a good guy, and a very genuine person. He was very lovable to me as a reader, because he knew what was right and what was wrong, and was very sweet, but also tried to act cool sometimes and screwed up a few times as well. I really connected to him and I think that his relationships with the other characters and their story really enhanced the book.
The supporting characters, Noodles, Needles, Doris, Jazz, and John, were amazing. Even though some of them didn't get much time in the book, I still felt like I knew all of them personally, and since they were such a big part of Ali's life, they became a part of my heart as I read the book. Especially Jazz and Needles, I loved both of them so much. And I think Needles and his syndrome really added to the book, because Needles was more than just his syndrome, and it showed. 
I also loved the strong sense of family, the strong relationships in this book. John and Ali's complicated father-son relationship was also incredible. Needles and Noodles and their love for each other but yet the bad feelings because of something that had happened before (won't spoil it) broke my heart and put it back together again.

The Downs: It was a really enjoyable book, but not mind-blowing. It didn't change my perspective on anything. I'm also a tad bit confused on when in the year it was set..?

Overall: A beautiful coming-of-age story, with phenomenal voice, characters, and relationships between said characters. Recommend it for more gritty contemporary fans. 

Rating: 5 kisses! 

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