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“We’re all suffering, and it’s okay to feel what we feel, but we still here,” Percy Bell. —Rebound
by Kwame Alexander
AR Test, Diverse Characters, Graphic Novel
Ever since Chuck “Da Man” Bell’s father died, Chuck’s turbulent emotions are holding him back from his relationships. When his mom sends him to his grandparents’ house for the summer, Chuck finds healing through basketball. With the help of his friends and relatives, Chuck also learns about his family’s past.
Chuck is an emotional 12-year-old who disobeys his mother and gets into trouble with his friend, Skinny. However, Chuck’s attitude towards life adjusts as his grandparents and cousin, Roxie, teach him wisdom and basketball. Chuck realizes that his grandparents are suffering after their son’s death as well, and Chuck makes an emotional connection with them. This story presents the multifaceted nature of grief through Chuck and his family. The narrative emphasizes this shared humanity rather than suppressing the trauma that the family has endured. The family helps Chuck come to terms with his emotional turbulence, and the end shows him as a happy adult who learned how to cope.
Chuck’s story pairs well with Alexander’s creative narrative styles. The poetry might be off-putting to some readers, but the flow is similar to reading prose fiction thanks to his free verse. The graphic novel panels help build excitement in the basketball/daydream sequences and give a different look into Chuck’s imagination. This book is a good introduction into poetry for younger readers.
Told in free-verse poetry and graphic novel panels, Rebound shows the turbulent healing process after tragedy strikes. As Chuck learns about basketball and how his family members deal with loss, he begins to understand the world outside his emotions. The book is told from Chuck’s perspective, but his grandparents are a large focus of the story. His grandfather, Percy, uses humor and tough love to help Chuck come to terms with his father’s death. However, Percy is serious and kind when Chuck is struggling the most, but Percy never comes off as preachy.
Alexander’s writing style is unique, and it switches between poetry and graphic novel panels. However, the story flows well and has many fast-paced basketball scenes. Alexander uses different poetic techniques to emphasize sounds, emotions, and dialogue. These portions and the graphic novel panels depicting Chuck’s daydreams help enhance his narrative voice and his dreams of success. Rebound is the prequel to Kwame Alexander’s book Crossover, but Rebound can be read as a stand-alone book.
Rebound tells a story about shared humanity and suffering, and it reinforces the need for family in difficult times. Alexander writes interesting and complex family dynamics, and his integration of basketball and comic books into the text feels natural with these themes. He grounds the abstract nature of grief in a manner that is digestible for younger readers. Rebound is a good read because it presents a character who rises above self-pity and gains perspective in dire times. Anyone who has faced a difficult situation will enjoy Rebound’s blend of poetry and graphic novel elements because they effectively portray themes of grief, love, and the power of family.
- Chuck’s friend CJ likes Chuck, a topic that is revisited somewhat often throughout the book.
- CJ pulls Chuck out on the roller rink and “kisses [him]/on the cheek,/and, just like that,/ lets go/of [his] hand,/ and skates away,/and [his] heart/ almost jumps/ out of [his] chest.”
- Chuck’s grandparents, Alice and Percy, kiss. Percy says to Alice, “Now give me some sugar.”
- Chuck’s friend, Skinny, meets Chuck’s cousin, Roxie, and calls her “a pretty young thing,” which does not make Roxie or Chuck very happy.
- Uncle Richard brings his boyfriend to the Fourth of July party.
- Skinny mentions that his cousin “Ivan got into a fight” when his team lost a basketball game, but no other context is given.
- Chuck says, “I remember/my father spanking me/when I was little,” as his mom tries to hit him for smack talking.
- Chuck’s mom tries to hit him when he talks back. Chuck says, “Her hand/is like/a razor-sharp claw/about to slice/the air/lightning fast/in the direction/of my face, /but I duck/before the blast/almost rips/my head off.”
- In her way of showing affection, CJ occasionally gives Chuck “a punch/to [his] stomach/that hurts/in a good/kind of way.”
- Chuck says to his mom, “Some of my friends’ parents got divorced, /remarried, and the new fathers abused the/ kids, and that’s not cool.”
- On a walk, Percy tells Chuck, “My/mother wasn’t so easy. Used to make me/get a switch from our peach tree, then we/ got whupped good.”
- When Roxie sees Chuck sitting in the truck, she “punches [Chuck]/ in the arm.”
- After Roxie and Chuck lose a game, one of the boys on the other team taunts them. The other boy says, “Maybe you should play on a girls’ team,” and Chuck narrates, “She raises/HER fist, / ready to punch, but I grab it, / and get/in HIS face.” Percy pulls them apart before an altercation can occur.
- While waiting outside the rink, Skinny’s cousin and his friends run over to “this other/ crew of guys/ like they’re about/ to throw down.” It is implied later that they fight off-screen.
- Ivan walks into the roller rink “with specks/ of blood/ on his shirt/ and a sneaker/ in his hand.” It is inferred that he was in the fight that occurred off-screen, and that someone was seriously injured. No other details of the fight are given.
- Chuck says that Ivan is bragging about “the beatdown/ they just dished out.”
- Someone brings a gun to the rink, and everyone scatters.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Before Chuck’s father died, “he promised/to get me/ some fresh sneakers/and let me/taste beer, /as long as/You don’t tell/your mother, Charlie.”
- At the end of the book, Chuck narrates, “my mom/ let me taste beer/ and it was disgusting.”
- Skinny has an uncle that “smokes incessantly.”
- According to Chuck, “Ivan/used to be/pretty cool/and fun/to be around/till he started/smoking/and hanging out/with a group/of delinquents/he met/in juvie.”
- It is insinuated that the older guys hanging with Skinny’s cousin are drinking alcohol “hidden in/ brown paper bags.”
- The police stop Skinny and Chuck outside the rink, and they unknowingly have Ivan’s bag containing “three sandwich bags/ filled with/ cannabis.” They are arrested for possession.
- Words like stupid, sucks, punk, wimp, nerd, loser, and fool are used frequently throughout the book.
- There are some loud altercations near the beginning of the story when Chuck’s mom yells at Chuck in creative ways. For example, when Chuck defies his mom and slams his door in her face, she yells, “Boy, I am this/ close to wringing your neck.”
- After Chuck scores the winning point in a three-on-three basketball game, he thinks, “The gym / roars like / a hyped-up choir / in church /after a sermon.”
- Of Chuck’s father’s death, Alice says, “There’s a masterplan, and I’m not the / master. We just have to trust in the plan.”
by Alli Kestler