Book Review: I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina; Illustrated by John Jennings and Stacey Robinson

34099859Format: Paperback

Pages: 168 pages

Published:  2017

Publisher: Tu Books

Genre: Graphic Novels

Synopsis:

Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises.

Powerful, progressive and stimulating. This significantly important graphic novel grapples issues that should be widely discussed in length throughout all communities.

Not only it discusses issues that an open debate is necessary, this novel approaches this tragic story in a unique way. Readers follow Alfonso Jones on a ghost train, a train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who were unable to receive justice for their deaths. The author decides not to tell this story in the usual generic way. He thinks out of the box. We not only get to see the community and Alfonso’s family hurting from this tragedy, we see the ghosts, Alfonso’s ghost, interacting with the story. It gives the phrase “speaking for the dead” a whole new meaning. Those interactions made the story more alive and real for me. I also like the literary connection that was made between this story and the Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

The flashbacks, at times, were a bit of confusing. I do like a story to be more flowing and straightforward. I do understand for this particular story it was necessary. However, some readers might find it annoying but hopefully the important social impact that this story gives will encourage them to continue reading it more. The media attacks were terrific, especially in situation like this. You never get the full story and I feel this graphic novel showed how the media can distort a situation for their own advantage. A necessity in this day and age.

Although I believe The Hate U Give did a better job telling the story of police brutality, this is one book that should definitely not be overlooked. This heart-wrenching but need to be told story allows readers, especially the younger ones, to have a better understanding about an issue that is causing pain and rifts in our communities. I Am Alfonso Jones is one of those rare graphic novels that tells the truth and it rare to find a story like that for the younger generation. This should be required reading for all middle and high school students. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this book on a lot of Best Books of 2017 lists.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Get It At: Amazon |Barnes & Noble|Book Depository | Your local library

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