The first thing that will strike the reader who picks up Kwame Alexander’s most recent book, “Solo,” is how it seems to be a dedication to the love of music, or more specifically rock n’ roll. From the way the words are written in lyrical verse instead of typical prose to the allusions to legends of rock along with the names of their songs, it is apparent that music is what keeps this book going. It’s also what keeps the main character, Blade Morrison, son of guitar hero Rutherford Morrison, sane throughout the madness that is his life.
Writing and listening to music is what helps Blade push through his father’s addiction to drugs and alcohol, the nearly constant relapses he cycles back to, the death of his mother who, even though she passed away years before the start of the book, still seems to haunt him and a life where every move he or his family makes is closely monitored by the vultures of Hollywood known as paparazzi.
Though, on the surface, the book seems to be solely about the “first world problems” of a boy who has lived a spoiled life and does not know how to appreciate it, the emotions Blade feels throughout can be understood by anyone, no matter what their socioeconomic class is.
As a recent graduate of high school, Blade knows only what is expected of him: to go to college and figure out what his life is meant to be like there. Only, he has no set idea on what he wants to do, which is something many people in high school or college can relate to. The constant pressure to decide at 18 exactly what the rest of your life is going to look like is common. The emotion that was most apparent out of all of the ones Blade felt, though, is the emptiness of not knowing who you are and what you want. The meaninglessness Blade feels is something anyone who has ever doubted their place on this Earth can relate to.
Then, there is the idea that if he does not belong in his family, one he has always felt separate from especially after the death of his mother, he does not know where to go. This sentiment is common now among younger generations who wish to see and change the world, but are also inhibited by what is expected of them.
The book takes on a deeper note when Blade goes on a journey to Ghana to find himself. This is the part of the book that will be attractive to those who are full of wanderlust or wish to simply make a change where they can. In Ghana, Blade meets Joy, a young woman of the village of Konko who speaks in a way that reaches Blade like no other has before, and Sia, a young girl who reminds him of the beauty in the simplicity of life.
There, he watches a culture so vastly different from his own yet still finds a common ground with the people, that common ground being music. At this point in the book, Blade has lost himself so completely that he feels he cannot even play the guitar anymore, but throughout his experience in Ghana he finds the passion to play once more.
It is also in Ghana that he finds something within himself that is able to forgive his father for all of his mistakes, especially once Rutherford travels to Ghana as well, in a well-meaning (albeit dramatic) fashion. There, father and son learn to be around each other once more, but not in a way that is immediate or even complete as the book draws to a close.
The moments in Ghana are very real. They are not completely about the enlightenment Blade feels from watching people enjoy their lives, even though they live in what he deems to be worse conditions, while also not fully being about him knowing exactly who he is by the time he leaves.
In fact, all that is known by the end of the book is that Blade is ready to sing and play music once more, and that everything else will come to him when he approaches those crossroads in his life.
Overall, the book is about wandering, metaphorically and literally, through life and letting go when it is finally time to do so. Throughout this journey, there is music, which brings joy and brings people together. In this book, music stands for the passion Blade has and it can be synonymous to any passion a person has in their life. If someone has passion, at least they have something to hold onto when they are lost.
Kassidy Manness is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org