I had trouble both reading and reviewing Johnny and Jamaal by K. M. Breakey. Partly because of the subject, and partly because, well, it just didn’t turn out to be my kind of book.
Babe, it’s definitely me, not you
Every person has their own reasons for reading – or not reading, though why would anyone do that – books. As well as for sticking to particular genres. Me? I’m an escapist. That’s why I stick to fantasy and romance. Because it’s magic and, most of the time, a guaranteed happy-ever-after. And it’s a lot more exciting than my day-to-day life. Entertainment is what I’m after.
Johnny and Jamaal is brutally real. It deals with a complex and very much present problem of racism. Specifically, the Black vs. White issue in North America. And that is just not something I want to read about. Call me an ignorant fool or just plain bad person, but I do not like reading about real life problems. Not because I want to pretend they don’t exist, but because I prefer to educate myself about them in a different way. After all, every story has many sides and 666 different points of views, each able to spin the tale its own way. Just like Johnny and Jamaal so excellently proves. Which I think is the strongest point of this book.
But the point is, I prefer my fictional realities to be exactly that – fictional. With lots of plot, action and romance. And characters. My attitude is simple: I love fictional characters for who they are, not their race, gender or sexual orientation. I genuinely do not care about their skin colour or romantic preferences. I care about who they are as human beings. And the entire cast of Johnny and Jamaal simply failed me in that aspect. At best, I didn’t care. At worst, I found some of the characters utterly dislikeable. Not because of their ignorance, but because of their attitudes towards other people. Often based on skin colour. Even Johnny, the golden superstar who is, supposedly, oh so charming, saw and treated women in a way that made me want to just put the book down, close my eyes, and take a deep, deep breath. I know his attitude is real. I know the attitude of other characters is real. But that doesn’t mean I want to deal with it outside of real life.
Then, there is the language. Johnny and Jamaal deals with street violence and black mobs. With that comes its own kind of street talk, which is both very, very hard to decipher and akin to a knife against my language nerd soul:
I down nee no mo’fn bo’shee’ on ma slate. I cain mes wit ma mo’fu’n scho’ship, know I’m sayin’.
But we can still be friends, right?
The thing is, Johnny and Jamaal excels at handling the issues it sets out to resolve. It presents different sides to the racial conflicts, it proves that we are our own worst enemies, it emphasises that nothing is ever as simple and straightforward as we would like to believe. And it does so in an interesting and tragic way, where Johnny is the catalyst, rather than the hero.
But Johhny and Jamaal is also a book that can only truly be appreciated by the right kind of audience. Which I, sadly, am not a part of. If you, like me, like action and romance and fairy tale happy endings, this book might not be for you. But if racism with all its controversies and issues of political correctness are things you are interested in, then this is definitely a book worth checking out. Just be prepared for a lot of sports references…
Johnny and Jamaal by K. M. Breakey
Published by K. M. Breakey on June 20th 2016
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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.
What is your attitude towards slang, jargon and street talk in books? Should it be accurate, in moderation, not exist at all? What do you do when you have trouble deciphering character’s speech?