Stand alone to date
“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.”
Thank you to the author, K.M. Breakey, for gifting me with a copy of Johnny and Jamaal in exchange for an honest review!
So. I won’t beat around the bush. This book tackles a pretty heavy topic (or at least in the US it’s pretty heavy) but I’m going to try my best to not get into my personal views on the subject and focus on the book itself.
1. The mode of writing. I want to start with this because in order to understand the rest of it, you have to understand how this book is written. It takes on third person limited POV which means you see the story from the outside (you aren’t in a character’s head) but you occasionally get glimpses into some character’s thoughts. I really loved that the author chose this particular POV style because it injects the right amount of both objectivity and personal experience into the book. Like I said above, this is a tricky topic and I think the author did well portraying it’s complexities. In terms of the writing itself, I think the author has a wonderful prose and I couldn’t help but be drawn in.
2. The characters. Now, because it’s third person limited, I didn’t get attached to any of the characters. They were certainly well written, but I felt like a true outsider. I did enjoy hearing the different perspectives of the different characters, however. The author made sure to include several different (and often conflicting) viewpoints on the subject of race relations and what needs to be done to improve the state of the US (and Canada). I thought it was especially interesting how the author draws parallels between his fictionalized characters and the relationship of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (MLK championed peaceful protest while Malcolm X preferred targeted violence and a full take over). My favorite character by far, however, was Chantel. She’s Luke’s girlfriend (she’s African American and he’s white) and exploring the dynamic of her relationship with Luke was really interesting as well as hearing her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, etc.
3. The plot. Once I got into the book, I think the plot is extremely well-laid out. It was slow in the beginning and I had to fight the urge to put the book down, but once I passed the 8% mark, I was captivated. The book spans a rather large amount of time considering the circumstances and the time jumps had the potential to leave the reader confused but the author did such a good job with the transitions and making sure to include only relevant information that I was never confused. I also enjoyed how, as the novel progresses, the author dives deeper and deeper into the complexity of the issue and further elaborates.
4. The topic. Now for the difficult point: the topic of this entire novel. It’s impossible to write a book on this topic without inserting at least a little bit of your own opinion. This is clear at you progress through the book. And while it’s clear what the author’s opinions are, I think it’s also a good conversation starter. It’s always good to hear another opinion and take into account what other people see in their perspective of the world.
5. The time period. One consistent issue I had with this book is the time period. I just wish the author had made it clear that these events are entirely fictionalized (unless they aren’t and I just missed a whole lot of the news). The author weaves in the events with the events of 2015 and everything that happened that year (along with a bit of 2016). While it was cool to read about, I kept confusing myself by thinking that it actually happened when it didn’t.
The Final Verdict:
A well built novel with splendid characters and plot line. However, the main purpose this book fulfills is a think piece which it does rather well. I do wish the events in the book were clarified as to their fiction and the pace in the beginning was a bit slow.