27. Wild Card: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
List Progress: 11/30
Hey, Kiddo has a lot on the surface to draw me in. This graphic novel tale of an adult looking back at their fractured relationship with a damaged and damaging parent, portrayed in largely-monochrome art in an ink-and-watercolor style, has a lot in common with one of my all-time favorite books: Fun Home by Allison Bechdel. But this might have put Hey, Kiddo in a difficult position for me, trying to work up to such a high bar. Writer and comic artist Jarrett Krosoczka tells about his childhood being raised by his grandparents, as his mother struggled with heroin addiction and was in and out of jails, prisons, and half-way houses. It is personal and touching, but lacks much actual analysis or a thesis statement, and feels unmoored because of it.
Hey, Kiddo is aimed at a younger audience than Fun Home, hoping to reach children and young adults where they are at in their own journeys, so critiquing it as a thirty-year-old feels unfair. But it feels in some ways like Krosoczka is unwilling to make incisive statements about his loved ones. The biggest example would be his portrayal of his grandmother, Shirley. The book does not pull punches with portraying her alcoholism and harsh words towards her children and grandchildren, but doesn’t seem willing to draw any direct connections between her behavior and the fact that her daughter became a drug addict at age thirteen. The audience can draw their own conclusions, but it feels like Krosoczka’s narrative voice doesn’t have a lot to say, preferring to just show scenes in chronological order.
There is a lot to enjoy about Hey, Kiddo, and I cannot imagine what it would be like for a young reader from similar circumstances to see their experiences reflected in media, with an eye towards survival and hope for the future. Hey, Kiddo was not for me, but that’s not who it was made for, and that’s okay. I am glad that it has found its audience.
Would I Recommend It: Not really, but in a fairly neutral way.