I Am Alfonso Jones

By Booklist

Alfonso—black teenager, gifted student, the son of a wrongfully imprisoned father—is shot dead by a police officer. His crime? Shopping for his first suit to celebrate his father’s release. Alfonso awakens on a purgatorial ghost subway. There “ancestors”—spirits of past victims of racial violence—guide him through his life, his parents’ lives, even the life of the officer who shot him, as well as showing him the consequences (and lack of consequences) that follow his death. Medina, likewise, guides readers through the world that contemporary African Americans live in, a world where justice does not seem to exist. Yet, he preserves a thoughtful perspective and a sense of balanced humanity through Alfonso’s loving family and his school cohort, and he staves off suffocating solemnity with a lyrical turn of phrase and insightful allusions to literary ghosts. The illustrators evoke honest emotion but allow figures to burst with an animated energy that offsets the high verbosity. Warning: there are no happy endings here. The book ends, but Alfonso’s purgatorial quest for justice does not.