Review: Blacktop (Toni) by LJ Alonge



Toni decides she’s not going to show up to practice until Coach Wise apologizes.  She cuts herself off from her friends on the team and retreats into her drawings.  Meanwhile, the child center her brother worked at closes and he’s frustrated with his new job.  Can Toni pick herself up again despite all of these setbacks?




I fell unexpectedly in love with this book — first, I loved how upset I was with Toni and her slate of irrational yet somewhat justified decisions.  Its lyricism also surprised me.  I’m used to sports novellas like these being all story or fairly wooden dialogue, but dang, this one has real heart to it.  I highlighted lines like, “The sun is fat and yellow as it rolls up a cloudless sky, a glob of paint on a clean palette.”  


Issues with comprehension


There are some jumps in location and in time that come unannounced and are hard to track.  There’s a chapter that takes place in the past and shows Toni’s experience in foster care.  At other times, it is hard to track where Toni is or when the characters move from one location to another.  I think a slightly longer book or some sharper editing with more setting and time clues could have taken care of these issues.


Recommended for


A modular series about characters on a sports team written by a black man?  Hello, readalike to Jason Reynolds’ Track series!


I loved this book – I will pass along to my eighth grade readers to see if their enthusiasm matches mine.



Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera



Rufus and Mateo just got calls from Death-Cast: both of them are going to die at the end of today, September 5.  Better start making last arrangements now.


For different reasons, both Rufus and Mateo are passing their Last Day alone, and both download the Last Friend app on their phone in order to find somebody to keep them company with the knowledge that this is the last day for both of them.




I’ve enjoyed watching Adam’s career as an author, but this was not the book I wanted to read.  I think Adam did a terrific job with writing, dialogue, and enough concept to keep the book going but not too much concept to bore teen readers …. But I lost steam and interest on the characters’ journeys.


My favorite parts were towards the beginning, where I think Adam penned the non-friend friend “hookup” nature of the Rufus/Mateo relationship.




I work with middle schoolers, where I think this book will have niche appeal for readers who are interested in something a little meditative and slow.   For high school I see a much broader appeal for readers who are interested in what they would do on their Last Days and reading about non-white LGBT characters.


I see this book was nominated for the BFYA  list, which is exactly where I’d place this book.


Recommended for


Readers who want something emotional and a twist on a relationship story.