So many kids today are the children of addicts. This is a horrible and intolerable fact. Jarrett Krosoczka’s sensitive autobiographical graphic novel is a dip into the life of just one of the many young victims of drug-addicted America. It is also just the thing to share with any middle grader touched by the drug use of someone close to them.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Jarrett’s mom, Leslie, is an excellent artist and a fun and loving mom. But she is single and far too young when she has him and her escalating drug use drives him to fend for himself in ways no young child should have to. Soon enough, her drug use has spun into an addiction fueled by theft and what might have been prostitution. Jarrett’s grandparents—always a strong presence for him, along with his mother’s young siblings—step in and take custody of him.
Thus begins Jarrett’s story of growing up with a sometimes-there mom, an argumentative and kooky grandmother (later revealed to be an alcoholic) and a grandfather who isn’t exactly “cool,” but is reliable, often fun and funny, and ultimately very encouraging and empowering of young Jarrett. Simultaneously, Jarrett’s mom goes to prison, his own artistic talents blossom, and childhood progresses, replete with a rock-solid best friend and typical middle-school and teenage fare, though tainted mostly by the long shadow of his mother’s abandonment, his father’s non-existence, and his grandparents’ rocky relationships with each other and their daughter, Leslie. Although Jarrett’s life is far from ideal, there are no monsters in the story, and Jarrett fares far, far better than many other children in a similar situation would.
The book is poignant and inspiring but, for me at least, not a weepy. It gives readers a deep–dive into the loneliness and powerlessness felt by children of addiction.
WHY I READ IT: I was intrigued by the story’s construction as a graphic novel using a limited color palette and historical ephemera from the author and his family. I am a fan of realistic MG fiction and I was curious to see how the drug addiction issue was handled, as it is so prevalent in our society today.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT: Absolutely, yes. It is not an entertaining read but it is a tale well-told and it stayed with me for a long time after I finished it. I loved that it was hopeful and showed how tools like art could pull people to safety, and how there are people along the way who can help if kids let them. I liked the message that his mother was not a villain—he allows her to remain likeable if deeply flawed—and I liked that his grandparents, while certainly heroes, are also flawed and just doing the best they can. All of that uplifted me.