Review of _Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty_
Yummy, with felony after felony on his juvenile record (which, in 1994, meant he could not be tried as an adult), is seeking to impress his Black Disciple Nation gang bosses when he pulls a hit on a rival. He misses, however, killing a 14 year old girl in the process. His life as a reputed “tough shorty” on the rise comes to an end when fellow Black Disciples Derrick and Crag, 16 and 14 respectively, arrange his execution to get the heat off the gang’s collective back. As Neri explains it, Yummy becomes the poster child for all that is wrong with urban youth when the media, most notably, TIME, cover his story. Yummy the vile, the coldblooded killer, though, was also Yummy the abused, the neglected, the teddy bear-coddling, 60 pound child of drug addicts and prostitutes.
Yummy the victim; Yummy the victimizer: meet an 11 year old stone-cold killer and recoil when thinking about how he was one of hundreds of youngsters still doing the dirty work for America’s gangs. Wonder what it would take to offer these “shorties” a better alternative and gag yourself on the acidy realization that whatever that is, it might not ever be offered or accepted.
The novel leaves one with a burning rage to retroactively make things right in Roger’s world and a gnawing frustration that Yummy’s life and neighborhood might have been too far gone for even the smallest bit of help to have mattered. But, if that is the case, doesn’t it mean giving up hope for children who’ve already lived without it for their entire lives? The ethical tensions in this text do not easily resolve.
Yummy is a worthwhile read for all adolescents, with adult facilitation highly recommended. It may be especially poignant for those young people who have to make excruciating decisions at young ages regarding their safety and status in neighborhoods when it comes to gang life or the much less known and less comfortable something else.
It is not a fun read. But, perhaps it should be a required read. Expect to be angered and disturbed. Yummy grabs at your chest with barbed-wired fingernails and won’t let you go easily. The more you thrash, the more it has got you.