May 26, 2014

Jamie's Got a Gun

Text by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Illustrated by Spyder Yardley-Jones
Great Plains Teen Fiction
224 pp.
Ages 12+
May 2014

Jamie's Got a Gun which he found during a dumpster dive and he's in a dangerous state of mind.  Jamie's got an abundance of anger and it's growing.  Dangerous combination.

His sources of rage? There's Hugh the Pugh (for pugilist i.e., boxer, former), stepdad and abusive drunk who regularly beats up seventeen-year-old Jamie and his hard-working mom, Molly, and never stops demanding that Jamie get a job, any job, though Mom is determined to keep Jamie in school and pursuing his drawing. There's Blade Attaman and his school thugs who torment Jamie physically and verbally, humiliating him on a regular basis.  There's his father who left when Jamie was 4 and now lives in Chicago with his new family and provides essentially no support so Mom has to work two jobs and settle for Hugh the Pugh who doesn't work because he's collecting a pittance for a WCB claim.  Even Molly's brother, their Uncle Mac, doesn't help her out much, though he spoils his sons rotten.  And, in their rough neighbourhood, Jamie watches as Tina, a classmate from elementary school, now works the street as a hooker, supporting a drug habit that her pimp Tony probably got her into. These injustices are overwhelming to Jamie.

Personally, Jamie's got his own issues, from his dyslexia to his lack of friends and no girlfriend (though he is crushing on Tatiana Oleshenko).
"Sometimes I wish the rain could come and wash away my pathetic life." (pg. 24)
Jamie's one bright light is Candy, his thirteen-year-old sister and his hero.  He'll do anything to protect her, and that gun might be just the thing he needs to accomplish that.
"But a gun has a loud voice. I'd finally be seen and heard with a gun.  People would take Jamie Kidding seriously.  At last." (pg. 63)
The coarse starkness of Jamie's world is reflected in his artwork, courtesy of Spyder Yardley-Jones, of jagged edges and bold angles. There is no softness in his world.  Yet, when he draws Candy as a Sailor Moon-like superhero, Candy Moon, his playful side can be seen.  And when he shares his drawings of Tatiana's shoes, eyes or lips, he's seeing more than what's on the surface.

Gail Sidonie Sobat's young adult books suggest that she's got the pulse of young people and knows how they think and feel.  Gravity Journal (Great Plains, 2008), Chance to Dance for You (Great Plains, 2011) and Not With a Bang (Magpie Books, 2012) are perfect examples of how she can get into their heads and voices.  By collaborating with Spyder Yardley-Jones, Gail Sidonie Sobat has added that graphic element that adds a thousand words but moderates the text length while enriching the story.  Words on a page are only powerful when read; words with accompanying black-and-white graphics are understood and endure.  In Jamie's Got a Gun, it couldn't have been anything but a graphic novel, with illustrations documenting his experiences and feelings, as Jamie decides what he's going to do with that gun.  But, as you'll understand when you read Jamie's Got a Gun, it's not all black and white.

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