Book Review: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

One of my favorite parts about a certain trunk or treat event I take my kids to is that it’s held in the shopping center with the county’s newest library, and there are always copies of the “One Book, One Community” choice available. So while my kids fill their bags with candy, I fill mine with a new book.

This year’s choice is a graphic novel. The cover title is “How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction,” which summarizes the book well.

I was both delighted and disappointed to find this year’s choice was a graphic novel: delighted because it meant I could read it quickly (about 2 sittings). Disappointed because I rarely feel I get as much depth out of a graphic novel, regardless of the artwork.

It was a fast read, and there wasn’t anything wrong with it, though I did find myself wanting more depth. It does contain strong language and situations, so a sensitive reader might be shocked. Teaching high school and being a fan of horror, it takes a lot to shock me, but I thought it was relatively tame compared to what I expected (given the subject matter). The artwork was engaging, and the author chose a muted color palate, which helped add seriousness–and in many ways melancholy–that the story deserved.

That said, I felt it fell short in not fully immersing me in the author’s personal struggles. I saw what he was going through, but I didn’t feel emotionally pulled into it. I wanted it to be a darker read, something that would really jolt me to awful possibilities of a family with addiction. I’m not an expert on graphic novels, so I’m not sure if there was more that could be done to pull the reader in emotionally. I felt too much like an impartial observer. At several points throughout the novel, I wondered where it was headed and why I cared. I really enjoyed the written matter at the end of the novel: multiple paragraphs that added depth to my understanding of the main character. I’m not sure if perhaps paragraphs integrated into the graphic novel may have helped.

I think perhaps because I researched heroin addiction for my novel The Girl Who Flew Away, I was prepared for much more graphic descriptions and much more emotion.

I do praise the work for sharing—in a very accessible way—the impact that addiction has on a family. It’s often easy for an outsider to be dismissive of an unsuccessful student or child without realizing that their family situation is beyond their control, and they may be fighting a battle worse than an onlooker could imagine.

I also liked how the author kept coming back to art as his saving grace. I can see this being inspirational for others who are going through a similar situation—the need to find something to give life purpose and fulfillment.

It’s fitting that I’m posting this on Veteran’s Day, as veterans are one of those categories of humans I think deserve much more help than most of us are prepared to give. Books like this are useful in hopefully opening our eyes and making us more sympathetic to our fellow human.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in delving into the topic of addiction without getting into lots of excessive details, but it still requires a strong stomach, especially if the topic is new to you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.