17 August 2011

August 2011 Book Review: Murderville by Ashley & JaQuavis (2011)

Ashley & JaQuavis. 2011. Murderville: The First of a Trilogy. NY: Cash Money Content. Paperback | $14.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1936399000 | 272 pages

Murderville is not whatever you think it is. You cannot look at the title or cover of this novel and assume that you know what the story is about. And that's the beauty of Street Lit as a genre - it reiterates the adage that you can NOT judge a book by its cover.

That is not to say that this book cover is less than - indeed, to the contrary. Just don't take one sweeping look at the cover art and the title and think it's the same 'ole, same 'ole ... because you will miss the complexity and richness of this story. Look at that book cover again: why is a blood-stained hand chosen to expose her beautiful face? Why is it entitled "Murderville"? Look ... and then crack open the book. Warning: make sure you have your day's slate clear, and a nice cup of whatever-you-like-to-sip (coffee, for me) next to you - get comfortable ... because this is a not-can-put-down type of read.

Liberty and A'shai are 12-year-old children from Sierra Leone who meet by way of violent circumstances in Liberty's war-torn village. When their eyes meet in the midst of all the chaos and horror, it is an instant connection. The two are immediately on the run ... unbeknownst to them, they are on the run to Murderville...

Events quickly twist and turn, and the children find themselves as child slaves in present-day Americas (yes, you read that right), which leads them to ... the streets. They both embrace their fates with a sense of fortitude and resilience that is common of children in the hood...however, that fortitude and resilience is gained at a price to life and living ... Liberty and A'shai hold tightly to their love to make it through all they must face, confront and overcome, including the fact that Liberty is dying. A modern Romeo and Juliet tale, Murderville can proudly sit amongst the canonical of the classics. It is excellently written and developed, with important truths interspersed in this love story to educate us readers about some dark realities that many children live through on our planet - today.

Authors Ashley & JaQuavis deliver what they promised in their recent interview with StreetLiterature.com: with Murderville they have widened the horizon of street lit to encompass global issues and concerns that directly impact people living tough lives on the streets - everywhere. They eloquently illustrate how war - no matter what streets in what country on what continent - is a scourge that is affecting our children who then grow into adults still battling traumatic demons of their past. We learn that the stories of American children in the hood are not that different from the stories of street children everywhere - who all grow into adults that we, as a global society, are accountable for.

There is a subtle, deep, important message in Murderville that educates and entertains us simultaneously - no small feat. Shucks, this novel may even leave you speechless.

With Murderville being the first of a trilogy, it is going to be exciting to see what authors Ashley & JaQuavis have in store for Liberty and A'shai's story as the series continues to evolve and unfold. No doubt we have more interesting characters to meet! In the meantime, look again, read again - and learn. This novel is a must read.

Highly recommended for public and high school libraries (yes). This novel could be read in conjunction with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (yes, really).

To connect with Ashley & JaQuavis:
Twitter: @RealJaQuavis

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