by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
First sentence: “C’mon, get behind the wheel.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: This is not a light graphic novel. There’s swearing, talk of drug use and abuse, and bullying. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore, but it might appeal to younger teens as well.
I was told by my publisher rep that this one was incredibly powerful. I trust her judgement and opinion, but I didn’t fully appreciate what she meant.
In this graphic novel that was initially inspired by his TED Talk , illustrator and author Krosoczka puts down into pictures — grays and browns with a splash of orange — what his childhood was like. He was the grandson of Polish immigrants — Joe and Shirley, the hardworking types who mostly showed tough love more than actual love. He was born to their second daughter (they had five children in all), and went to live with them when he wa about three because his mother couldn’t take care of them. He writes about how this effected his life: the not knowing nothing about his father — not even his name — or much about his mother, where she was, or whether or not she’d show up. He talks about addiction and how it played a role in his life — not as a user, but as someone who loved a user. But, for me, it wasn’t just about his mother, it was about his grandparents as well. How they struggled to raise him (and their other children; Jarrett’s mom wasn’t the only teenage pregnancy in their family) and how they tried to make it day-to-day. Krosoczka doesn’t hold anything back, and I appreciated that. The through line was his art. And one of the things his grandparents did right was support his passion and talent for drawing. Even though they weren’t always the kindest to him, and even though it was weird being raised by his grandparents (it was the 1980s/1990s after all), it came through how much they loved him.
It also was nice that he didn’t pass judgement on his mom in the book. He could have railed on her for abandoning him, for never being there, for not being able to conquer her addiction to heroin. But he didn’t. He was honest about his feelings towards her — the times in his life that he craved her attention as well as the times when he was angry with her — but he didn’t pass judgement on her. I found that refreshing. It’s good to have stories of kids who are living with their grandparents because their parents can’t handle it. It’s good to have stories of forgiveness (because he does, eventually forgive his family for not being perfect). And it’s good to have stories about kids of drug addicts where the kids turn out okay.
It’s definitely worth reading.