This is a deeply moving and deeply depressing read. Ward’s descriptions seem to match each character seamlessly. Rather than being written from the outside looking in, Ward’s writing feels as though she is inside each character trying to reveal something to the world.The pacing was excellent, I was captivated from the start and carried through this story like it was a train-wreck, a beautifully documented train-wreck.
There are multiple POV, although the story is mostly told from the point of JoJo, an early teen who lives with his grandparents and little sister Kayla while his parents float in and out of his life. The grandparents are generally their solid objects, although when his grandma really takes a turn for the worse with her cancer, she starts to feel less like a solid object. Pop is the one who stays steadfast throughout the story.
This story examines what it means to be from a low income background, how drugs can take over people’s lives, and what our responses are to growing up in a life of trauma. As someone who works with youth in these kinds of situations, this was a super fascinating read. I feel Ward hit the nail on the head here, and although I’ve heard other people didn’t like the ghost aspect of this book, I feel the ghosts really contributed to the almost otherworldly reality that a lot of people living or growing up with trauma experience. The only characters who experienced the ghosts seemed to be the characters who probably have a warped sense of reality based on their circumstances, so I felt the ghosts lent an interesting insight into the characters’ inner thoughts.
Furthermore, this is yet another great look at what it means to be growing up black in America, the little prejudices that are intrinsic in every day life. This narrative is subtle and comes from almost every black character in the book at one point or another. Ward does an excellent job of weaving this aspect into each character’s thoughts and emotions without putting too much of an emphasis on racial tension, really giving readers a good feeling for why racial tension is still an issue in America.
Family dramas are good. At times, this book felt a bit trope-y, but it’s a story that does exist and is still just as important to read. Ward’s writing makes this well worth the read, and I really feel for the kiddos. Glad they get their voice in this story.