I came across this book and author a few weeks ago when someone posted a list of #ownvoices authors on Twitter. On my mid-year goal check, I noted that I needed to work on adding diversity to my reading list. Reading When I Was The Greatest was my first step toward achieving that goal.
I enjoyed this book, giving it 5-stars on Goodreads. There was plenty of tension in Reynolds’ plot, though it fell a little short on action compared to the books I normally read. Reynolds’ voice is perfect for the story he tells. Characterization is another area where Reynolds excels. Ali, the main character, lives in a neighborhood filled with fully-formed secondary characters. His family and best friends are vividly portrayed. I enjoyed Reynolds’ style of writing; it is not at all pretentious or over-written. There were a few slang terms that I wasn’t familiar with (I’m a 54-year-old, white reader), but in most cases I was able to figure them out based on the context where they were used.
When I Was The Greatest was written for Young Audult readers. If not for some mild sexuality, I think it would also be suitable for readers at the upper end of the Middle Grade age range as well. I recommend this book for all YA readers, but particularly for YA readers looking for diverse and #ownvoices reads. I have another book co-authored by Jason Reynolds, All American Boys, on my ‘To Read’ list. I’ll report back on it here after I read it.