In this graphic novel for young adults, author and artist Jarrett J. Krosoczka relates the true story of his childhood and teen years. The son of an absent father and a mother addicted to heroin, Jarrett experienced neglect and witnessed numerous traumatic scenes.
When Jarrett was three years old, his mother was arrested and sent to jail. Jarrett’s grandfather became his legal guardian. Jarrett was raised by both his grandparents and several young aunts. But Jarrett’s new home reverberated with dysfunction of its own as both his grandparents drank heavily. As well, his grandmother was a vile-tongued woman who often cursed God and freely criticized others.
Still, despite Jarrett’s grandparents’ shortcomings, they loved their grandson and gave up much to raise him, even as they mourned their daughter’s recurring cycle in and out of addiction.
As Jarrett matured, it became evident that he could draw well, especially comics. In his artwork, he discovered an avenue to grapple with his past, rage against its painful ghosts and seek – ever so slowly – to understand who he was, the sacrifice his grandparents had made for him and the struggles both his parents experienced. Drawing offered Jarrett another benefit: “With my comics, I was in charge of what happened. I could escape fully into these worlds that I created.” Yet, uncontrollable situations kept coming at Jarrett. So, he filled one sketchbook after another with his comics in order to survive from day to day.
Hey, Kiddo is a gut-wrenching window into the world of a child growing up around adults addicted to various substances. Yet, the novel is hopeful as Jarrett ends his narrative with notes describing the choices he made as an adult to establish a healthy, loving home with his wife and children.
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