Author: Greg Neri with illustrations by Randy DuBurke
Genre: YA Fiction graphic novel (based on a true story)
Rating: 5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library (even before I processed!)
Summary (from the inside flap): Eleven-year-old Roger is trying to make sense of his classmate Robert "Yummy" Sandifer's death, but first he has to make sense of Yummy's life. Yummy could be as tough as a pit bull sometimes. Other times he was as sweet as the sugary treats he loved to eat. Was Yummy some sort of monster, or just another kid?
As Roger searches for the truth, he finds more and more questions. How did Yummy end up in so much trouble? Did he really kill someone? And why do all the answers seem to lead back to a gang--the same gang Roger's older brother belongs to?
Review: This book is a dramatization of real events that took place in Chicago in 1994. The author created Roger as a narrator to take the reader through the few weeks when Yummy tried to impress his gang so much that he shot a classmate.
This book is powerful and I hope students at my school read it. The artwork is black and white, gritty, emotional, and raw, drawing the reader into the Chicago street scenes so that we can feel the tension and frenzy that followed Davon's shooting.
The story itself, which apparently made the cover of Time magazine, is heartbreaking. At eleven Yummy already belongs to the Black Disciples Nation and it's easy to see why. They provide support, a family, and protection, all of which Yummy is lacking. But at eleven, Yummy wants to move up in the gang so he needs to prove himself. This is where things go horribly wrong for everyone involved. Neri doesn't mince words and the graphic novel allows him to use words sparingly to tell the story; he's got amazing graphics to set the scene.
We've all heard gang stories, but this one is riveting and a quick read. I felt sorry for everyone involved whose lives are scary, tense, and unnecessarily difficult.
What is our responsibility as a nation to children like Yummy? The system has failed him, from his parents who do drugs and are in jail, to child welfare services and the police who don't protect him to the schools and government/community who should provide activities so that kids are busy rather than looking to fill their days. Click to see my updated Google Map.