While I was reading Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds I was texting a friend about it. I said I was not sure if I liked Reynolds or not as each of the six books I read were different. The four book Track series I really consider one book as it is about four friends, even if each book is a little different in style. But I had also read For Every One which is what I call a poem essay. Then Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a poem, graphic novel, novel, and picture book. Each book, as said, is different. There are different tones to each one. They all have similar themes, but if you had not told me they were all by the same Jason Reynolds I might not have realized that.
And one reason to read Reynolds is because you never know what you will get. And to read Ain’t Burned All the Bright means you will get something that is different from almost anything you have read. Or at least, for me. It has themes of family, racism, history, and self. Along with the contemporary themes of the recent riots, news stories, Covid and the classic theme of coming of age. But it has something else. The illustrations are probably what makes it unique. The voice of the narrator is also different who is obviously a young person, but who also has the maturity of an adult (which I assume means we have the voice of the author himself).
These gorgeously illustrated images are done in an abstract realism. The colors and details used and the lack of colors and details (the contradiction is the point) create a tone loud and clear. They make the words of Reynolds one long graphic novel poem. Jason Griffin takes the ideas of the story and illustrations them as feelings. Or the spirit of the words. You can see the text woven among images, some are just colors, some are things like hands, others might not be a clear cut. They are images that need to be experienced and not told other than they have emotions like the text does. They both compliment and are separate from the text.
At least ages 12 and up would be the best age range, mostly due to concept and less to content, but it is deceptively not an easy read.