The answer is “Yes.” Kwame Alexander told the crowd at the Kaigler Book Festival to say “yes” to life. In his new young adult book Solo with Mary Rand Hess, he tells his protagonist Blade Morrison the same thing.

It seems that life has thrown Blade more curves than anyone deserves. His mother died. His father is working to reclaim his status as a musician. His girlfriend’s father has forbidden their relationship because of his father’s reputation for abusing drugs and alcohol. He has a chance to make a positive name for himself when the valedictorian of his high school class has to bow out, and he stands in for her as the salutatorian. His father ruins the evening by roaring onto the football field and into the front of the stage on a red Harley with a scantily dressed woman.

Twisting through the relationships with his father who bounces in and out of rehab, his girlfriend who must be kept secret, and his sister who mediates makes one think life can’t get any worse. But that is before the big family secret sends him on a trek to Ghana. Blade’s own music and that of his favorites woven into the verse novel keep him anchored for a while until he even loses faith in his music.

I saw a quote from Kwame Alexander before I read this young adult novel which could lend itself to some pretty salty language as Blade copes with his challenges. He said he told kids they didn’t need to curse so he took his own advice. Since that language pervades today’s YA literature, I wondered if he could pull off a heartrending story without it. I’ll go back to my beginning and repeat my first sentence. The answer is “Yes.”