Jarrett started out life with just his mom, but he was still pretty young when she went away and he was raised by his grandparents. They both loved him and cared for him, but they dealt with alcoholism, too. Jarrett's mother came in and out of his life over the years, struggling with a heroin addiction. In his teens, Jarrett learned his father's name, and then he had to decide how he wanted to handle that relationship. Through it all, Jarrett's gift for drawing was a source of motivation, connection, and sometimes, a way to deal with the world around him.
It's a graphic novel, but the content isn't for young children. Many scenes are difficult, but that's what makes this book so important - lots and lots of readers don't have two parents who speak affectionately and thoughtfully, and many readers live with people who are battling addiction.
Jarrett is not a hero, but he is working to survive his circumstances, and while no one would describe them as ideal, it's also more complicated than bad and good - he shows the love and positive moments with his grandparents and his mother, as well as the disappointments and tragic times. Although it isn't as gut-wrenching or incisive as Maus, it echoes some of that story's elements, including the belief that truth - even in its ugly, uncomfortable cruelty - is important to face, and pain cannot obscure affection or beauty.
The artwork is clearly a labor of love, with some authentic letters and drawings from his past and painstaking attention to details.
Strong language and references to violence and drug use may make this book better suited for older readers.
"When you don't see your mom much, you treasure anything that she gives you."
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