When I Was the Greatest

When I Was the Greatest

Photographer: Michael Frost
For Ages: 12 - 99
  • 14
In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut that Publishers Weekly calls “a funny and rewarding read” captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should've been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781442459489 | 
  • August 2015 | 
  • Grades 7 and up | 
  • Lexile ® 740L
List Price $10.99 (price may vary by retailer)
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Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Len Vlahos

I recently heard author Jason Reynolds speak at a book event in Brooklyn, promoting his new young adult novel The Boy in the Black Suit, the follow-up to last year’s When I Was the Greatest. At first I was surprised that the audience at the event...

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About the Author

Jason Reynolds
Ben Fractenberg

Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. The American Booksellers Association’s 2017 spokesperson for Indies First, his many books include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black SuitAll American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, For Every One, the Track series (GhostPatinaSunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.

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