Page Count: 340 Published on: June 20, 2016 Published by: K.M. Breakey Genre(s): Contemporary, Political, Realistic Fiction Source: Print: Paperback -via author Age Rating: YA
Alex's Rating: 4.25 stars
Two athletes from different planets are on the verge of greatness. Johnny’s a carefree Canadian making his mark in the NHL. Jamaal’s set to follow LeBron and Kyrie out of the ghetto. When their worlds collide, the catastrophic clash ignites racial conflict not seen since Ferguson. The incident tests the fledgling love of Johnny’s best friend Lucas and his African-American girlfriend Chantal, and sets them on a quest for truth and justice in the perverse racial landscape of 2016.
As chaos escalates across American cities, an MLK-like voice rises from the ashes. Wilbur Rufus Holmes may be salvation for Luke and Chantal, but can he stop society’s relentless descent into racial discord?
Johnny and Jamaal is awash with sports, violence and political taboo, as America’s seething dysfunction is laid bare.
Minor spoilers ahead
Liv was contacted about reviewing this book a couple weeks back. With a new semester starting up, she didn’t have time to check this out, so I decided to read it. This book ended up throwing me a curve. I expected the book to be & about the titular characters. Early in the story, Johnny is killed with Jamaal being at least partially responsible. The story shifts to focus on Lucas, Johnny’s white best friend, and Chantal, Lucas’s black girlfriend, as the couple watch the racial discussion explode in the United States.
Johnny and Jamaal were not what I expected at all. I anticipated a fairly generic sports story where Johnny and Jamaal meet, become best friends, and make an example of overcoming differences on a national stage. I was skeptical and then a bit appreciative that I was wrong. The author is not afraid to show every opinion of race relations in his book. I really enjoyed the different views presented throughout.
There are a few issues that I’d like to mention. First is the language. Swearing is omnipresent in this novel. It is more realistic to the world today, but I would give an R rating if it were a movie. Another detractor is the abundant use of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Again, its use makes the world more fleshed out, but written down is somewhat difficult to follow, at least for a small town white guy.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Johnny and Jamaal. It was good to see someone write about race in the United States and present logical ideas. Not everyone will agree, and that’s okay. The book opens the dialogue to begin a discussion. It will surely upset some people, and that’s okay too. I think anyone remotely affected by race (so everyone) should check it out, as long as the reader is mature enough to handle the language and heavy material.
Other Books You Should Read:
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr by MLK & Clayborn Carson
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley & Malcolm X
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Keep your stick on the ice,