45 pages 1 hour read

Mary Rand Hess, Kwame Alexander


Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | YA | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


Solo, co-authored by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess, was published in 2017 by Blink. The coming-of-age story follows 17-year-old Blade, the adopted son of a former rock star, as he discovers the truth of his parentage, meets his biological mother, and mends his relationship with his adoptive father.

The paperback edition used for this study guide was published by Blink.

Content Warning: The source text of this guide discusses substance use disorder and struggles from withdrawal from alcohol addiction.

Plot Summary

Seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison lives in Hollywood with his famous ex-rock-star father, Rutherford, and older sister Storm.

As the novel opens, Blade wakes from a recurring nightmare, in which he is chased by a large spider while family members play a word game. Blade’s mother, Sunny, whom he adored, died 10 years ago, and she features prominently in his dreams.

At 17, Blade has run out of patience for his father whose failed attempts at rehab have made Rutherford the laughingstock of the media and negatively affected Storm and Blade. Blade and his girlfriend, Chapel, must hide their relationship because her father assumes that Blade will end up like his father. Blade’s resentment intensifies when Rutherford shows up at Blade’s graduation drunk and loudly interrupts Blade’s commencement speech.

Blade and Rutherford’s relationship deteriorates further when Rutherford accuses Blade of not defending Storm when she’s publicly humiliated at a party by her ex-boyfriend, Van. Blade argues with Rutherford, and in the heat of the moment, Storm reveals that Blade was adopted. Shocked, Blade seeks out his friend Robert, a street musician, for advice. Robert tries to give Blade perspective, but Blade feels as though his life has been a lie, so he shuts himself in his room for a week and composes music.

Blade decides to search for his biological mother, Lucy, after Rutherford slips her name, along with a sealed envelope from Sunny, under his door. Blade finds out that Lucy is helping to build a school in Ghana, Africa, where she has lived for 10 years. Before saying goodbye to Chapel, Blade gets her name tattooed on his arm as a surprise gift to show her how much he loves her. However, when Blade gets to Chapel’s house, he discovers her kissing Van. Devastated, Blade destroys his priceless, beloved guitar, and swears never to play again. When the nightmare recurs, Blade assumes the spider represents Chapel.

Upon arriving in Ghana, Blade is struck by the contrast of joyful life in the village of Konko to his chaotic life in Hollywood. Blade meets a fellow 17-year-old, Joy, who befriends him and helps find a guide who can take Blade to Lucy. The villagers welcome Blade, who is entranced by Joy and the entire village. Sia, a five-year-old orphan, bonds with Blade and they become inseparable. Rainstorms delay Blade’s trek, during which time Blade grows closer to Joy and immerses himself in village life. Before Blade leaves with the guide, Rutherford, Rutherford’s drummer, his sober coach, and a cameraman unexpectedly arrive in a luxury bus. Rutherford is making a documentary about his band getting back together and Blade’s reunion with Lucy.

Blade is furious, accusing Rutherford of exploiting the people of Konko and interfering with his trip to find his mother. However, when Blade sees how much the villagers love Rutherford, he is more forgiving. Rutherford surprises Blade with a new guitar on his 18th birthday, but Blade is still unable to play. Blade’s trip is delayed further when Rutherford suffers from alcohol withdrawal, which he manages with Blade’s help.

When Blade finally meets Lucy, Rutherford respects the moment and turns the cameras off. Blade discovers that his adoptive mom, Sunny, used to babysit Lucy, who became pregnant and was forced to give up her baby, Blade. Sunny and Rutherford promised Lucy that they would raise Blade as their own. While Blade is in the mountains, Sia contracts malaria and then dies shortly after Blade and his group return to Konko. Racked with sorrow, the village has a musical procession in honor of Sia, led by Rutherford and cumulating with Blade playing his guitar and singing a song he composed called Solo. Solo honors Sia and Sunny. Blade’s journey ends with the realization that he is the spider in his dreams, and like Anansi the spider who “carries knowledge and stories”, he must not run, but face himself and embrace his life and all the love—old and new—that surrounds him.