Finished: Feb. 13, 2011
First Published: Jul. 30, 2010
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Genre: non-fiction, biography, graphic novel, true crime, YA
Chicago, my hometown.
Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.
Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils '10 nominee and required reading for me as a Cybils graphic novels panelist. However, all the panelists received a copy from the publisher except me. I guess it got lost in the mail or, maybe it was a Canada thing. Anyway I was unable to find a copy before our shortlists were due but this book was unanimously voted by the others as the first book chosen to go on the shortlist, I happily deferred to their wisdom. A copy just recently came into my local library and I am just now able to read it. Happily, after I read it I heard it had been chosen as the Teen category Cybil Award Winner!
Simply put, this is the true 1994 story of 11yo Robert Sanidfer, nicknamed "Yummy", a part of a gang called the Black Disciples Nation, while intending to shoot and kill someone else accidentally shot and killed a 14yo female bystander, Shavon Dean, who had a bright future ahead of her. This is the story of the social conditions in extreme poor black neighbourhoods in urban cities and the gangs found there. The tale of one boy who was beaten and abused so much by the age of three that he never had a chance at life. He had no love and looked for it where he could find it, unfortunately it was within the acceptance of a violent gang.
The story is narrated by a fictional character who was in Yummy's class at school and his thoughts on what is going down. He has many questions but never any answers of his own. He goes around the neighbourhood and finds plenty of different answers from all the folk who live there, fellow classmates, and listens to the newscasters, lawyers and politicians debate the situation on TV. However, ultimately it is left for the reader to decide whether Yummy was a hardcore killer or a victim or possibly both? Very powerful story! Told in black & white art which I think suits the story much more than colour would have but I find the art a little too dark and shadowy at times that it is hard to make out all panels. I'm sure this was the artist's intent but it's just not my thing. Minor squabble. This is a book that should certainly be on required reading lists for all inner city schools, or wherever urban gang violence is prevalent. A good hard look at this case may save some child from following in Yummy's footstep's.