The Crossover

The Crossover Literary Elements


Bildungsroman; Young Adult Fiction; Poetry

Setting and Context

Present Day (2014); unspecified American city

Narrator and Point of View

Mostly first-person narration (Josh), told in verse; the "Basketball Rules" and a few other sections are in the second person.

Tone and Mood

Tone: celebratory, triumphant, nostalgic, self-assured, tender, foreboding, doubtful, mournful

Mood: empowered, energetic, playful, sympathetic, moody, worried, confused

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Josh Bell. As this is a Bildungsroman, the antagonist is not so much a character as it is the abstract pain and obstacles of growing up.

Major Conflict

Will Josh and JB repair their fractured relationship? Will they win the championship game? Will Dad take care of himself?


Dad collapses due to a heart attack while playing one-on-one with Josh at the rec center.


1. Alexander makes numerous allusions to Dad's eventual fate, such as referencing his father's death, the vomiting, the nosebleed, the reluctance to make a doctor's appointment, and Josh's feeling of worry that "you can get used to / things going well, / but you're never prepared / for something / going wrong" (100). The fact that things are "too good" for Josh right now alerts the reader that something bad is on the horizon.
2. During team meditation, Josh gets a weird vision of JB in the hospital, and when he opens his eyes, he sees JB staring at him like he's seen a ghost; this foreshadows Josh putting JB into the hospital by throwing the ball at him too aggressively


"Grab the ball. / Take it / to the hoop" (214) is an understatement for what is actually happening on the court. It's much more energetic, fraught, and exciting than this suggests.


1. Numerous famous basketball players are alluded to: e.g., Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, LeBron, Chris Paul.
2. Numerous famous rappers are alluded to: e.g., Little Wayne, Kanye West, Tupac.
3. Numerous famous jazz musicians are alluded to: e.g., John Coltrane, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie.
4. Josh says he is not good at math and is no Pythagoras, an allusion to the famous mathematician
5. Coach reads to the boys from "The Art of War," an ancient Chinese military treatise by Sun Tzu.
6. When Mom jokes about Uncle Bob's greenish ham by asking if he has any eggs, she is alluding to Dr. Seuss's book "Green Eggs and Ham."
7. Dad alludes to the 2008 recession by talking about greedy bankers and housing gamblers.


See the separate "Imagery" section of this ClassicNote.


The concept of identical twins is treated as a paradox: JB and Josh must simultaneously cope with their deep similarities and establish individual identities.


Dad's health issues and death parallel those of his own father.

Metonymy and Synecdoche



1. "Trouble owns our faces" (32)
2. "I can see / the red scissors from Coach's desk / smiling at me" (37)
3. "Dad's small silver safety box / with the key in the lock / ...practically begging me / to open it" (44)
4. "JB's eyes are ocean wide, / his mouth swimming on the floor" (52)
5. "Her hair dances to its own song" (80)
6. "My free throw flirts with the rim and / loops, twirls, for a million years" (219)