Young Adult / Fiction
From award-winning and bestselling author Kwame Alexander comes Solo, the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison who is being crushed between the scathing tabloids exposing his former rock-star-father's addictions and a protected secret that threatens his own identity. A trip to Ghana provides answers to his past and changes everything he thought to be true.
Told in prose and song, Solo is a young adult novel about a gifted high school musician who experiences heartbreak, public humiliation and an identity crisis on the eve of his high school graduation. Part one of the novel takes place in Hollywood, part two in rural Ghana.
Blade Morrison, a budding musician, detests Rutherford, his rock-star father and the family’s lavish lifestyle. Blade’s mother died when he was young, a loss that magnifies his anger towards his father. During a family fight, Blade’s sister, Storm reveals a family secret about Blade’s parentage. The news, combined with the infidelity of his girlfriend, devastates Blade and almost takes him over the edge.
After a tough part one, filled with nonstop disappointment for Blade, part two picks up and is filled with hope. Blade travels to Ghana by himself to learn more about the family secret. The journey takes him to rural Ghana where he is without his guitar and regular use of his phone. His senses are on alert as he experiences new food, language, friends and music. Joy, a young village woman he befriends, helps him get closer to the truth. The sudden appearance of his rock star dad threatens to ruin all the headway Blade has made. Over the course of a few more days and more emotional highs and lows, Blade eventually finds his answers and more importantly, he finds peace, happiness and reconciliation.
I enjoyed Solo. The emotions expressed by Blade are true to the teen experience. Rock legends, including Nigerian Fela Kuti, are woven throughout the story and help to push the narrative along. My favorite character is Joy. She is the person who teaches us the most about Ghana. We learn about rural life and culture. Joy flips back and forth between her native language and perfect English (better than Blade’s). We gain insight about the half-built school and well—aid projects that were never finished. We learn about family—Joy takes care of her sick uncle despite dreams of finishing school and tends to children in the community who are orphaned. Joy is wise beyond her years and doesn’t fall blindly for the Americans who swoop into her small village. She gives a lot of herself to her new friends, not because she is poor or oppressed but because she exhibits time-honored Ghanaian customs and traditions. She shows Blade and his family what really matters in life.
Highly Recommended. Also highly recommended is the audio version of Solo narrated by author Kwame Alexander.
Reviewed by Anastasia Shown, MSW, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice
Published in Africa Access Review (November 30, 2017)
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