Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is a graphic novel by G. Neri that is based on actual events. This is the story of how 11-year-old Roger (a fictional character) tries to make sense of the death of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer. Also 11-years-old. Also living in Chicago. A kid who was as sweet as the candy that gave him his nickname. A kid who would burn up a car if the owner disrespected him. A kid who called his grandmother home. A kid who did not think he did anything wrong when he killed a 14-year-old girl.
While the story is interesting, Roger’s format of telling the story instead of “living it” made for slow reading in places. While things happen mostly chronological, it is looking back at the events that lead up to the death of Yummy. Some pieces of information Roger would have had to imagined (Yummy’s being sworn into the gang most likely) and others he experienced himself (the bullying by taking lunch money; the showing of the frog and the smile on Yummy’s face). Some things he must have heard from others (his brother Gary, also a gang member), some from news reports and of course, what his family, friends, neighborhood thought and said. This is not only a look at 1994 in the neighborhood Yummy lived and died in, but the nation as well.
Unfortunately, the art was not my favorite. The images were too busy and the black and white illustrations blended together making it difficult at times to know who is talking/being talked about. This made me step back and reread spots, so I knew who/what was being referenced. Randy DuBurke has a point, but I am not sure if they are trying to make it look like a newspaper article (no color) or if they are making any point at all other than colored illustrations are expensive to print. But overall, they were a distraction at best. Though, like most graphic novels they need to be read/looked at as well to help tell parts of the story.
Neri has their opinion of who Yummy was and if the end of Yummy’s story was justice or tragedy. The introduction and afterwards say you will start to question your thoughts of right and wrong. Perhaps you will but maybe not. Maybe you will see a kid who did not have a chance. Maybe you will see someone who knew what he was doing. Maybe you will think the ending was justice or maybe not. This book is a personal journey. And one you might not like, but hopefully will be glad of the experience.