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Review: Yummy (Greg Neri)

Title: Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shortie
Author: Greg Neri with illustrations by Randy DuBurke
Genre: YA Fiction graphic novel (based on a true story)
Pages: 94
Rating: 5 out of 5
Challenges: PoC
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.

Geography Connection:

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.


Athira said...

This sounds amazing! I don't recollect this story, but I need to follow it. As for the book - in my TBR now.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Love G. Neri...I need to get a copy of this book. Thanks for your review!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--I don't remember the story from the 1990s either, but I am sure I read it at the time. So sad

Mrs. DeRaps--Neri is good, isn't he? I think our students will really like this

Aarti said...

This sounds like a very important book for me to read. Thanks for telling me about it, as I don't think I'd have come across the book otherwise. I am posting a review about a similar type of book tomorrow- growing up in the ghetto and resorting to violence, though I think with a different approach than this book has.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I have this book on my shelf, but haven't read it yet. Clearly, I should remedy that situation. Thanks for the great review!

Alyce said...

I never would have picked this one up on my own just based on the cover, but I love true stories, so I'm going to see if our library has it.

Jenners said...

This sounds like a powerful and disturbing read ... and one that more adults should read to understand the things that kids are facing.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aarti--I look forward to your review that you are going to post. I'm sure it'll be something I want to read!

Kim--It is such a quick read since it's only 96 pages and a graphic novel, but so good.

Alyce--Yeah, the cover isn't great. The inside images are so much better

Jenners--Unfortunately, I think this life is real for far more kids than we know