When I Was the Greatest

by Jason Reynolds
First sentence: “‘Okay, I got one.'”
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Content: There is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, and talk of teenage drinking. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Allen — call him Ali — lives in Bed Stuy in Brooklyn, and while it’s not the best place to grow up, it’s not the worst, either. He has a mom who works hard and cares a lot about Ali and his sister Jaz. And even though his dad is a bit of a loser, he also cares. The next-door neighbor kids — Needles and Noodles; Jazz game them the nicknames — not so much. They’re brothers, and Needles as Tourettes Syndrome, which makes Noodles simultaneously super protective and incredibly dismissive of his brother.

It’s basically a slice of life story; this is Ali and Noodles and Needles and their lives and interactions. The only conflict that happens is when they invite themselves to a party they are not suposed to be at, and then Needles’ has a spasm and inadvertantly starts a fight.

It’s not my favorite of Reynolds’ books, to say the least. I disliked his portaryal of Tourettes, and while i think he was trying to deal with acceptance of disabilites in the Black community, I think he fell short of the mark. It was good enough to finish, but not good enough to really like.

2 thoughts on “When I Was the Greatest

  1. I’ve read his books ‘Ghost’ and ‘Long Way Down,’ which I enjoyed. Just out of curiosity, what bothered you about the Tourette’s rep? I don’t know a lot about Tourette’s but I enjoy reading books that handle different types of disabilities.

    Like

    • booknutgirls says:

      So, my nephew has Tourettes, so I know it isn’t what is stereotypically thought of when people say “Tourettes” (ie, explosive and inappropriate swearing). I felt like Reynolds leaned heavily into the stereotypes and didn’t bother to figure out what Tourettes actually is.

      Liked by 1 person

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