77 pages 2 hours read

Kwame Alexander


Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Middle Grade | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide


Rebound, published in 2018 by Kwame Alexander with illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile, is a novel in verse and a prequel to the Newbery Award-winning novel The Crossover (2014); it serves as the beginning of the three-part Crossover series. Kwame Alexander is an award-winning poet and author who primarily writes in the young adult and children’s genres, aiming to provide accessible entertainment for youth. An adaptation of the book series, The Crossover (2023), is available for streaming on Disney+.

Rebound is a coming-of-age story following Charlie “Chuck” Bell, who is the father of Joshua Bell and JB Bell in The Crossover and Booked (2016). The story opens in 1988, after Charlie Bell loses his father to illness. Using basketball as a way to reconnect with his power and agency, Charlie discovers what it means to “rebound” in both sports and life, leaning on positive role models as “coaches” to guide him through his trauma.

This guide refers to the version published in 2018 that includes illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile.

Content Warning: This guide and the source text depict a medical emergency that later results in death; the guide also references mental illness and anti-Black police violence.

Plot Summary

The story begins shortly after the death of Joshua Bell, Charlie’s father. Joshua Bell was a notable figure in his community, teaching adult literacy courses and alternative education to youth by night. Though Joshua seemed strong and healthy, he experienced a sudden medical emergency. Charlie was present during this episode, which resulted in hospitalization, and shortly afterward witnessed his father’s death. Joshua’s death and its impact on the Bell family, specifically Charlie, serves as the primary conflict in the novel.

In the wake of his father’s death, Charlie’s relationship with his mother becomes strained, and his grief causes him to escape into comic books, avoiding interactions with his best friends, CJ (Crystal Jean) and Skinny. Skinny, negatively influenced by his cousin Ivan, pressures Charlie to steal from a woman (Old Lady Wilson) who lives down the block. Charlie is caught by his mother, who insists that he own up to his behavior and help Old Lady Wilson by walking her dog, Harriet Tubman. Charlie and CJ begin to develop an adolescent attraction as she helps him walk the dog. Nevertheless, Charlie’s mother remains worried about his behavior and decides to send him to visit his paternal grandparents, Percy and Alice Bell, in Washington, DC.

When Charlie arrives in Washington, he learns that the stay will not feel like a “vacation.” Percy insists that Charlie help out by cutting the grass, picking fruit, and doing other household chores. Charlie’s grandmother, Alice, takes a more nurturing approach to supporting Charlie, feeding him delicious food and encouraging him to reconnect with memories of his father. Charlie falls into a routine of walking with his grandfather in the mornings, joining him at his part-time job at the Boys and Girls Club, and playing basketball with Roxie, Charlie’s cousin. CJ calls, writes, and sends him a journal to support him from afar.

Charlie’s mother visits for a Fourth of July celebration with the family, during which Charlie meets up with Skinny, who is in DC with Ivan to visit family. Skinny encourages Charlie to go roller skating and possibly get a discount on some Air Jordans, which Charlie’s father promised to buy him before he died. After Ivan gets in a fight that results in gunshots being fired, Charlie and Skinny are arrested for possession of the marijuana that Ivan had in the backpack.

Charlie’s grandfather picks him up from jail , but instead of punishing Charlie, he reiterates the importance of surrounding himself with positive role models and owning up to his choices. Charlie’s mother decides to take him back home so they can continue to heal from their trauma together.

In an epilogue, CJ gives her two twin boys a graduation present from their father, Chuck Bell, who has passed away. In a letter accompanying the gift, Chuck Bell tells them of his summer in 1988, during which he learned to “rebound” on the court and in life. He tells the boys about when he and CJ first knew they would have twin boys, assuring him of his love for both their mother and them and setting the stage for The Crossover and Booked.