Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1131
Perfect Example of Why We Need Diverse Books
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
As ever with audio, I can’t really say whether I would have enjoyed the book as much in print. All I know for sure is that the audiobook was perfect. I listened to it in just two days, which speaks to its quality. J. B. Adkins does a completely brilliant job narrating as Ali, a fifteen year-old Brooklynite. He sounds friendly, approachable and intelligent. His voice even does a sort of squeaky thing sometimes that really sells the youth of the character. Adkins made the novel come alive in a very real way.

First, let’s talk about the names. Ali, Noodles and Needles are none of them the actual names of these boys. All three are nicknames given to them by Ali’s younger sister, Jazz, for hilarious reasons. When I Was the Greatest is the story of these three boys, and centers on family and friendship. It’s really not all that gritty. It’s heart-warming and beautiful, in fact. I mean, yeah, there’s some dark stuff that happens and goes on in their neighborhood, but their lives are mostly happy.

That’s what I loved most about Reynolds’ novel. It’s so completely not stereotypical, not what I was expecting from the cover and the blurb. Ali lives with his mother and sister. His parents have been separated since his father went to prison when the kids were young. Ali’s mom, Doris, works a lot to earn enough money to support the family. Eleven year-old Jazz cooks the family’s meals and both kids bring in what money they can. From that, you might make some assumptions about the people in this family, and probably some of them would be wrong.

Doris and John are actually much more involved parents than those in most YA novels. They’re not perfect, but what parent is in the real world? Their love for their children is clear. Plus, I thought it was awesome how amicable the relationship is between Doris and John. They maintain affection for one another, but don’t live together because John hasn’t managed to straighten himself out. There is just so much love in this family. Both Jazz and Ali love their parents, and they love each other. Basically every scene between the family members gave me major feels.

Noodles and Needles also have family issues, coming from a more broken home. Their mother’s almost never around, and, without the support of Ali’s family, I’m not sure if they would get fed. Needles, the elder brother, has Tourette’s syndrome, and always brings knitting with him because it helps keep him calm. The way that people react to Needles is interesting. Most people treat him with a bit more kindness than usual, but otherwise like an ordinary guy, but his younger brother Noodles makes a big deal out of Needles’ syndrome. One of the main thrusts of the story deals with Noodles needing to come to terms with his brother.

The cover of When I Was the Greatest is misleading. Guns hardly enter into the story at all. Reynolds’ book is a lovely tale of family and friendship, and I urge you to give this book a chance, because it’s not getting nearly the hype it deserves.
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Gotham High
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex...
The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure...
Dragon Rising: A Mulan Inspired Fantasy
 
4.9 (3)
 
0.0 (0)
Sometimes a battle isn't waged on a bloody field....
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Savannah, Georgia is one of the most haunted places in...
Sword in the Stars (Once & Future, #2)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to...
Perfectly Misunderstood
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Jayden Valdez is an overachieving intellectual. Mike McGinnes is...
Crave
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
My whole world changed when I stepped inside the...
Golden Arm
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Lazarus “Laz” Weathers has always been shy, and his...
Meet Me at Midnight
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
They have a love-hate relationship with summer. Sidney and...
In My Heart
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A working mother reassures her child that even when they’re...
Grandpa's Stories
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
One young girl reflects on a year with her beloved...
The Nest That Wren Built
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Nature lovers and poetry fans alike will be drawn to...
Moonwalker
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
So, you want to know about Jack Wilson? Here’s some...
Elysium Girls
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
From a lush, dazzlingly original new voice in young adult...
The Lost Legends
 
5.0 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
A plague. A prophecy. A centuries-long curse. All her...
In the Hall with the Knife
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
A murderer could be around every corner in this...

Latest Member Reviews

Where is the Mississippi River?
 
5.0
"The Mississippi is the longest river in North America. It rises at Lake Itasca in Minnesota and flows almost due..."
Code It! Create It!: Ideas & Inspiration for Coding (Girls Who Code)
 
5.0
"Interested in coding but not sure what products or activities you could do with it? Look no further than this..."