I Am Alfonso Jones

By Kirkus Reviews

From the afterlife, black teenager Alfonso Jones, a 15-year-old victim of police brutality, watches the effect his murder has on his loved ones and community. The first page is dedicated to the image of a sole speeding bullet, which catches up to fleeing Alfonso on Page 2 in a powerful, heart-rending image. The next few chapters flash back to Alfonso's life: biking around Harlem, spending time with his mom, and joyfully learning his wrongfully convicted father will be released from prison. Narrator Alfonso chronicles his fondness for playing trumpet, acting, and his fellow thespian Danetta. As the pair shop for a suit for Alfonso to wear to his father's release, Alfonso is murdered by a white off-duty police officer. Afterward, Alfonso finds himself on a subway with strangers who turn out to be ancestors: all are unable to find peace when there is no justice. There are no pat solutions here, and readers are left to wonder if Alfonso will ever leave the ghost train. One of the final pages includes images of real victims of police brutality, and the book closes with a vigil for Alfonso. Some of the most profound truths come from Alfonso's grieving survivors. "We're not going to let you make a circus of our pain. Our black misery is not for your white amusement!" declares his mother; his grandfather reminds readers, "Too many of our people are getting vacuumed into the prison industry, or killed for no rational reason whatsoever but the skin they're living in…." Painfully important.