Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Boy Book Review - Yummy

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside ShortyYummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first foray into both reading a graphic novel and reviewing one. Although I grew up in Chicago and spent part of my childhood in Roseland, the neighborhood where this story occurred, seeing the title struck no bells at first. But the cover did what all good book covers should and made me look. Once inside the pages I found myself remembering the Chicago of 1994 and the neighborhood I both loved and was eager to escape. A picture really can speak a thousan words, and the powerful illustrations showed me the reason behind the popularity of graphic novels.

Even without the personal connection, this book is compelling. Yummy could be classified as creative non-fiction, with an invented classmate who narrates the last days of the real-life "southside shorty." Yummy's real name was Robert Sandifer, a killer...and a victim. The nickname came from the eleven-year-old's addition to candy. The fictitious narrator begins by showing his love for his family and pride in "Chi-town," even though Roseland is a virtual war zone. The pictures in this book show Rose-hell and a Yummy who is sometimes old-man hard and sometimes eleven-year-old sweet. When not eating candy and sleeping with his teddy bear, Yummy joins a gang, gets a gun, aims at an enemy gang member and kills a 14-year-old girl he once sang with in the church choir. Four days later police find his body. All this is history. In the book, the youthful narrator tries to uncover the events lthat made Yummy the contradiction that he was, and how he spent those last awful days.

A graphic novel is the perfect format to diplays this child's short, troubled life. We see the victim, the families, the neighborhood's grief, and the talking heads on TV news playing the blame game. We also feel the narrator's worries about his own older brother, a gang member and his struggle to understand what could have caused this tragedy.

Todays's youth may not feel the story in their guts the way this reader did, but I defy anyone to escape being enmeshed by the story of the boy who loved his teddy bear and the girl who wanted to be a hairdresser and the summer they both had to be buried. Thankfully the author understand the true virtue of Young Adult literature and privides a reason for hope at the end of the book, a light at the end of a very large, very dark tunnel.

Yummy is a page turner in every sense of the word, an easy read that makes the reader think.

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