Reynolds, Jason When I Was the Greatest, 232 pgs. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014. $17.99. Language: PG ( 35 swears 0 Fs); Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG13.
15-year-old Ali never had any real friends in his neighborhood. Everyone was involved with drugs or in a gang, and he wasn’t interested in that, so, when Roland (Noodles) and his brother (Needles) move into the apartment building next door, Ali is excited to have someone to hang with. Ali has managed an invite to MoMo’s party for himself and Noodles, but the deal includes bringing Needles. Needles is unpredictable - - he has Tourette Syndrome which he can control OK by knitting, but maybe Needles isn’t the one to worry about. When the party is broken up by a fight, Ali has to face some pretty serious consequences.
This debut novel catches the soul of this community, which is an extension of the families of these boys; one family is holding it together, one is having a crisis. I was pleased that the swear count was so low - - especially as one has Tourette Syndrome, Reynolds didn’t take advantage and delivered this relatively clean read. The party gets a little gritty (mature issues, alcohol, fighting) but I would still recommend this for the right middle school student and older.
MS HS - - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian