Friday, July 19, 2013

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

I read Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty because I'm participating in Book Boot Camp, an online reading club focusing on one middle grade genre per month. July's genre is graphic novels/manga. I've heard a lot about Yummy before, but just never got around to reading it - Book Boot Camp was the push I needed!

Yummy is narrated by a boy named Roger, a classmate of Chicago's infamous Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, who was murdered at 11 after killing a 14 year old girl. As is so often the case with youth violence, Yummy was a member of a notorious gang, the Black Disciple Nation, or BDN. Yummy's story got a lot of press nationwide, as people tried to reason out how someone's life could take such a terrible turn so early on, and how gang violence had become so pervasive. Yummy was featured on the cover of an issue of TIME magazine (view article here), and President Clinton spoke out about the incident.

In the novel, Roger, whose brother is affiliated with the BDN, tries to decipher Yummy's short life, asking some really important questions: "If I grew up like him, would I have turned out the same?" and is a person like Yummy, in his circumstances, more of a bully or more of a victim? Yummy didn't take very long to read - honestly about 35 minutes - but I found myself sitting and pondering these questions for much longer.  That's what you want in a book, isn't it?

I was so impressed with Yummy. It dealt with some really harsh realities and mature content, but I felt like it could have been (and was expecting it to be) a lot more graphic and violent than it was. I do think the image of Yummy, with his teddy bear, will stay with me for a while.

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