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No humans are truly the same: not even identical twins. While on the outside, it might seem like there is no significant difference, on the inside, the case is different. This is demonstrated very clearly in The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander. Two identical twins, Josh and Jordan Bell, both share a love of basketball, but on the inside, they are very different. They have different skills, likes and dislikes, and ways of dealing with others, most notably their father. These differences ultimately estranged the two–temporarily, at least–from each other.

The story starts by introducing the unimportant but notable differences between Josh and Jordan. For starters, Jordan prefers to shoot from afar, while Josh would rather drive towards the basket and go up for a dunk. Jordan likes North Carolina, but Josh wants to go to Duke. Jordan likes to trash-talk on the court, but Josh prefers to stay quiet. Josh is also more into academics than Jordan. However, the story continues to show that even small differences can cause big problems.

Josh ends up hurting Jordan because Jordan insulted him, showing that there are differences of opinion that come between them. During one game, Josh was late, and had slipped in mud on the way in the gym. As a result, he didn’t start for the first time ever, and was subsequently laughed at by his teammates, most notably Jordan. Josh was finally let back on to the court in the second half, but the image of his brother’s cold laugh stayed in his head, and, during the last few seconds of the game, when Jordan called him by his nickname, “Filthy”, in an insulting way, he just couldn't stand it any more. Using all his might, he thrust the ball at Jordan’s face, causing him to have a profuse nosebleed. This wasn’t just the result of this insult–it was the result of a series of conflicts between the brothers, especially over a bet that caused Josh to cut his hair, and also the fact that Jordan started spending more time with his girlfriend than Josh. The two brothers did not get along, and little differences piled up into a major conflict. These minor personality differences caused the relationship of the two to be fractured like never before. But although the two siblings were estranged for a long time after that incident, there was something even bigger coming their way.

Although “The Incident” had a big impact on Josh and Jordan, their father’s heart disease overshadowed it all. Yet even then, the siblings took on completely different perspectives on the situation. After the first time Josh and Jordan’s dad fainted, their mother suspected that it was because of the heart disease that was known for a long time to run in their father’s family. As his symptoms became more and more serious, Josh and Jordan were forced to make an opinion about the situation. Josh decided that it was nothing serious, but Jordan believed the opposite. Josh resented the fact that they had to start eating healthy, but Jordan seemed to accept that it was the only way to lower their father’s risk. Suddenly, they found their father in the hospital, death looming over him. But the brothers' opinions about him did not waver. Josh knew that the final, and most important, game in the basketball season was coming up, and did not want to wait in the hospital for a small maybe.  Jordan, however, would stay as long as he could next to his father, and decided not to play in the final game. But even so, their shared grief at their father’s death a few days after was enough to bring them back together, despite all their differences.

Although the brothers look the exact same on the outside, they have very different personalities on the inside. And when these differences clash, the damage done can be even bigger than surface differences. It’s not their body being hurt: it’s their heart. But in the end, sharing something–either a love of basketball or grief over their father’s death–helped bring Josh and Jordan back together. Ultimately, sharing a trait or feeling, even if it’s just one, can bridge the chasm of difference.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Houghton Mifflin, 2019. Buy a copy of this book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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