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Ain't Burned All the Bright

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Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.

And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published January 11, 2022

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About the author

Jason Reynolds

78 books8,944 followers
Jason Reynolds is an American author of novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audience. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, Jason Reynolds moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

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5 stars
8,555 (59%)
4 stars
4,121 (28%)
3 stars
1,206 (8%)
2 stars
238 (1%)
1 star
157 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,577 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews176k followers
January 21, 2022
a tragic and yet beautiful story that pairs together images and text depicting the life of a black family living in america and the covid-19 pandemic. it's a quick and easy read, but you feel it's impact long after reading it.
Profile Image for aly ☆彡 (hiatus).
346 reviews1,169 followers
January 20, 2023
"My name is Jason"
"Mine too"

Ain't Burned All The Bright depicts the sentiments of a young boy's family during racial upheavals and the Covid-19 pandemic conveyed in the style of a notebook written by the young boy himself.

I have to say, I was expecting a strong writing but this book imbued more of canvas arts; which is equally stunning. Regardless of the expectation, the storyline was built on poetic lines, along with the thread revolving the murders of George Floyd and Eric Garner. The author and illustrator connect the horror of those deaths, the violence implied in the way the pandemic unfolded, and a metaphorical sense of individuals unable to breathe freely in our society through the concept of breathing.

Despite its simplicity, the depth and intricacy of the notions will prevail most readers. On the whole, this is one beautiful and compelling read.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
961 reviews6,801 followers
April 29, 2022
Jason Reynolds is a national treasure. Named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2020 by the Library of Congress, Reynolds has frequently been nominated—and often won—practically every youth literature award. He has a natural gift to connect with young people and frequently tours the US speaking to underrepresented communities and getting kids everywhere excited about books. All this helps to see how Ain’t Burned All the Bright, a gorgeous artistic collaboration with Jason Griffin is such a powerful work that reaches out to comfort in the mess of fear, confusion and grief that has occured the past few years. Written in three long sentences over 300 pages of striking artwork, all done on pocket notebooks with Reynolds’ words cut out and pasted on them, Reynolds words carry the sentiments that prevailed during the pandemic years and embody the fatigue and fear surrounding everyone, as well as capturing the experience of a Black family when the news is full of another Black man murdered by police and people angry that protestors would ask to be allowed to live in peace. Yet this is not a message of despair, but one of hope, comfort, and finding your voice, breath, and smile.

Breath is a key element in this book. This singular word holds so many disparate ideas in relation to one another and the events of 2020, from those dying from lack of breath in hospital beds or choked out by police, the feeling of being unable to breath from the panic, feeling suffocated by the daily tragedies on the news, yet also the reminder to breath in, breath out and face each new day. Reynolds text weaves 2020 together and reminds us that it is okay to have these feelings, and it is okay to wonder what is next. Which is very comforting, especially seeing how responses to the fear manifested in many ways. Written from the perspective of a young person watching their family, from hearing his sister discuss going to a BLM protest to watching ‘my brother never lifts his head from the game/ while his hands jut around moving in a panic as he fights/ for an extra life,’ Reynolds perfectly captures this moment in time in a way that will resonate with any reader.

The artwork is quite extraordinary as well. With motifs centering on images of fire and waves that capture the emotional current of 2020, and plenty of images of houses to remind us of the increased time we all spent at home. The art is simple yet emotionally complex, using bright colors (most frequently blue, orange and red), and has a weathered look that seems inspired by the fatigue and trying to keep everything together we all experienced. The art feels very alive and dynamic, looking like a craft you see being built right before your eyes, and the way Reynolds text punctuates each page culminates into a rather moving effect.

This is a quick read, but one that has a very lasting effect. Even those who are hesitant to revisit the experiences of 2020 may find comfort within these pages, and learn that the comfort we can give each other makes all the difference. Definitely read this.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,535 reviews215 followers
March 15, 2023
I was reading this on 'device free day' in the school library I currently work at. Through teary eyes I was telling kids they need to pack up their card games and chess sets because the bell was about to ring. Another amazing book by Jason that shines a light on important issues and feelings and it totally moved me. The phenomenal artwork by Jason Griffin added another layer of meaning and made the story-telling all the more powerful.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,737 reviews5,277 followers
November 8, 2021
Ain't Burned All the Bright is a really soft, poignant, sweet look at a family living through two tragedies: the COVID-19 pandemic, and living as a Black family in the US. Our narrator is telling two stories consecutively, both of watching how his family is coping with the pandemic and their father's own experience with COVID-19, as well as wondering at his mother's reasoning for staying glued to the news as she watches stories about police killings and protests.

There's very little text in this book as it's primarily a few words here on there on pages full of artwork, but I've learned from reading his work before that Jason Reynolds has a way of putting across incredibly complex and layered stories with very little actual speaking, and he didn't disappoint me here.

It's an emotional, authentic, painful story, but it's interwoven with familial love and the hopeful reminder that tough days are easier to face when we have our people with us. I highly recommend this book and hope it gets the love it deserves when it releases. This book absolutely needs to be on the shelves of every classroom and library.

Representation: the narrator and his family are Black

Content warnings for:

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this review copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Profile Image for Mari.
708 reviews5,583 followers
March 6, 2022

This was very beautiful, particularly to look at. I also liked the extended breathing metaphor, and the way it was brought through violence against Black people, COVID-19 and creativity in hard times. I will say that this is very, very few words. It is three run-on sentences that it will take you a few minutes to read. I had to force myself to slow down and really look at the art.

You have to go into this for an experience rather than a story.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
590 reviews10.4k followers
December 29, 2021
I had no idea what to expect and this book made me feel deeply. I'm not sure I "got" it all, but i was really moved by the art and the use of a langue and the way the pages were organized. I just felt things. I special reflection on 2020 that doesn't feel like a reflection on 2020.
Profile Image for Tomes And Textiles.
282 reviews439 followers
January 12, 2022
I don't know how 3 sentences can provide this sort of power, but combined with Griffin's powerful work, this book is a necessary gut punch. I read it in one sitting and will probably re-read in several more sittings. There is so much to absorb here.
Profile Image for Kelli.
851 reviews404 followers
March 31, 2022
The incomparable Jason Reynolds has bestowed upon us yet another uniquely powerful gem. The weight of the book itself is our first clue that we are holding something intransmutable, and indeed, we are. The heaviness of the pandemic forcing people to remain inside (glued to their tvs and phones) is brilliantly juxtaposed with the outside protests against violence committed upon Black Americans. The combination of Reynolds' spare, but deeply affecting prose and Griffin's evocative artwork transports the reader into the mind of a young Black boy, who can't quite understand why we as a nation are so stuck and broken. This is gorgeously rendered, painfully accurate, and sorely needed.
5 stars
Profile Image for Julie.
2,011 reviews38 followers
July 26, 2022
I listened to the audiobook while following along in the hardcover book. The collaboration between wordsmith and artist is amazing! They have captured the experience of Covid and beyond. As Griffin states in the afterword: "We've changed and we've remained the same."
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,320 reviews18 followers
July 2, 2022
5 stars

Being a very big fan of Jason Reynolds I wish he had been around when I was younger. He has such a talent for telling important stories in such a simplistic and vibrating way. This book is no exception. I am happy to see Reynolds and Jason Griffin - a long time friend and illustrator - teaming up to do books.

This book is done in about seven sentences - albeit long sentences - over 384 pages. Those words by Reynolds are put over some wonderful illustrations by Griffin. Each page gives you pause and enriches the story being told.

It is very gratifying to read the work of Reynolds knowing that today's youth has the advantage of his work. This particular book is more on the graphic book style, but he also has poetry, that is outstanding and my personal favorite, along with regular story telling. I have yet to pick up one of his books that did not tell a story that needed telling and done in a very rich and enlightening way.
Profile Image for Esme N.
229 reviews883 followers
March 17, 2022
“And I’m sitting here wondering why my mother won’t change the channel, and the news won’t change the story, and why the story won’t change into something new.”

A direct excerpt from the blurb: For anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep, yep that’s exactly how it is. This is a story of what it is to be Black . In America. Right now.

This book is told in three breaths, and each breath is written as one very long sentence. It’s the story of a Black family living in America during the pandemic and the BLM movement. It is a story about how, when one is desperately searching for air, it is often the people and things in our closest circle that can serve as our oxygen masks.

There isn’t much to say about this book other than it was heart-wrenching and beautiful and managed to be both of those things and still ultimately provide optimism and hope.

The art (courtesy of Jason Griffin) is really beautiful, and originally done in a Moleskin journal. It feels in part frantic and sketchbook-y which only adds to Jason Reynold’s writing.

There is (obviously) no meme or playlist today - but a strong encouragement to pick up this book wherever you source them.

Note: i am rating this five stars because I want to reflect well on this book in GoodReads’ algorithm, but I do not generally rate books whose story is and has been a work of non-fiction for so many people.
Profile Image for Signed, Iza .
293 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2022

I can listen to Jason Reynolds all day 🙌🏽. Accolades to the full cast of the audiobook, so lyrical, so soothing, magical, and incredible. The illustrations too were so captivating and beautiful. I almost gave way to tears because of its message.

It's incredible how simple the words and dissertation are, but carries so much weight and depth that pierced into the heart.

"I'm sitting here wondering why my mother won't change the channel and why the news won't change the story and why the story won't change into something new instead of the every-hour rerun about how we won't change the world or the way we treat the world or the way we treat each other. "

Best believe I'll be using this for a meditation session 🧘🏽‍♀️.

A mash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. A book for everyone's who has endured 2020 (when the pandemic began).
Profile Image for Basic B's Guide.
1,036 reviews331 followers
November 12, 2022
Wow. Simplistic yet profound.

I’m in constant awe of Reynolds and was moved by this manifesto that combines simplistic illustrations and few words. I can only imagine how this strikes as a Black reader - the truths of the past, present and future. I hope tomorrow brings change, light and love for us all.

Get yourself a friend like Michelle, who preorders and shares books like this.
Profile Image for Crystal (Melanatedreader) Forte'.
247 reviews137 followers
January 12, 2022
A realistic perception of what kids went through during the pandemic. The wording and artistry are masterful. Jason’s mind is brilliant and anyone can relate to this iconic and legendary piece.
Profile Image for aqilahreads.
555 reviews46 followers
March 17, 2022
absolutely stunning art+poetry 🥲 i almost cried pls the fact that its so serious yet so sad at the same time 😫⁣

this book is seperated into 3 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘴 - focuses on BLM protests, conflicts & covid 19. apart from the important topics, its definitely something for people who can appreciate visual art which comes along with it. i was absolutely blown away with the captivating collages that capture v well with the words, in my opinion. ⁣

i also honestly think its a book that is meant to be read slowly in order to take in every single page even though its actually relatively short and can be read in a day. it took me awhile to get used to the texts tho ((sort of reminded me of magnetic poetry)) - probably its part of the poet's creative expression but definitely something that some readers would have to take some time to get used to reading. ⁣

such a work of art not to be missed ✨⁣

𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐬𝐞⁣
𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐡⁣
Profile Image for Laura Hoffman Brauman.
2,592 reviews37 followers
February 19, 2022
2020 - through the eyes of a young black man. His father ill and quarantined in a bedroom, his mother tied to the news coverage of George Floyd's murder, and he and each of his siblings coping in their own way. This is a mix of words and art that flow seamlessly and so effectively together. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this is an exquisite read and the book is an incredible work of visual art.
It is evocative, thought provoking, and a perfect stepping off point for both discussion around the topics explored in the work as well as for discussion about how art helps us process and express complicated emotions. Highly recommend picking this one up.
Profile Image for Brandie Shanae Bridges.
197 reviews137 followers
January 23, 2022
I am glad that I read this book. I actually read this out loud to my children and we had a nice discussion about it. This book is not only filled with words, but its also filled with art that is so beautiful. This book touches on the topic on the topic of black families in America and also during the time of Covid. I hope that this book reaches libraries and schools because if you can't understand the words that are flowing through these pages... then I am sure that you can understand and appreciate the art that shows great detail and also makes you think.
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,429 reviews74 followers
January 2, 2023

I could see the starred reviews stacking up, but when I got close to checking what it was all about, It seemed gimmicky and odd. I didn’t expect what I found. It is gimmicky and odd, but in the best of ways, giving us the promise of hope after the grimness of the past two years. Not the false hope that big problems will be mended out of the clear blue sky, but the hope that we have it within our imperfect selves to find a better path.

Popsugar23 - #50 - A book with alliteration in the title
Profile Image for disco.
598 reviews220 followers
July 9, 2022
...and she wipes weary from her eyes
still glued to the no-good
glued to the high definition glare
of low-definition life
Profile Image for Sacha.
1,097 reviews
October 23, 2021
5 stars

As a long-time Jason Reynolds fan and as a person who has been teaching his work for years, I expect to enjoy anything he produces. What I did not expect is how novel the presentation would be in this one. It's a top recommendation.

One of many aspects to love about Reynolds is what a prolific speaker he is. A particularly favorite video is his discussion of books as time capsules of the period in which they are produced, and I could not stop thinking about that particular connection the whole time I engaged with this piece.

Like many of Reynolds's works, this is not a light read. It's about a number of current events and circumstances, including but not limited to race relations, Covid, stay-at-home orders, the horrors of the nightly news, and tech dependency. The main character is in a state of focusing on breath: breathing in, breathing out, and not being able to breath. It's impossible to interact with this work - especially with the addition of the complementary art - and not feel these characters' pain...and access our own.

This is another stellar work from one of the greatest writers of our time, but in many ways, for me, this one stands out from the rest. I'll be recommending this - and perhaps teaching it - for years to come.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Profile Image for Gary Anderson.
Author 0 books88 followers
January 30, 2022
Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a long poem by Jason Reynolds about 2020, the year of being stuck–stuck at home; stuck in the America of violence, racism, pandemic, protests, and screens; stuck with being stuck. With his imagery and familiar details, Reynolds finds and reveals the symbolic and real-world possibilities of breath, change, and family. But even in these tough times, young people leave room for hope, and Reynolds honors that idealism in this book. The audio production available from Libro.fm is exceptional. Its thirty-seven minutes include a reading of the text by Jason Reynolds, another reading of the text with a full cast of young voices, and a conversation between Reynolds and illustrator Jason Griffin.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,531 reviews197 followers
November 12, 2022
Poetry in the form of three run-on sentences splayed out over nearly 400 pages of symbolic and roughly-hewn illustrations. It's one of those hybrid things that's somewhere between a graphic novel and illustrated text. I like the sentiments being expressed, but rather than dwell on them, the format had me just flipping pages as fast as possible in order to just be done with it.

I think I was too set on this being less an abstract expression of feelings and more a concrete story like Long Way Down.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
10.2k reviews94 followers
February 21, 2022
The confluence of COVID -19 and the BLM demonstrations is explored in this unique and thought-provoking title. It's more like a work of art than a traditional book. Really unique and memorable!
Profile Image for Anya Smith.
220 reviews174 followers
July 4, 2022
3.5⭐️ - This was both heartbreaking and hopeful, a truly poetic expression of the past few years
Profile Image for Brittany.
273 reviews7 followers
October 13, 2022
It's hard to rate or review a book/poem/art piece like this, and I feel like simply the fact that it can be read so quickly doesn't force me to give it the moments to settle like it deserves. But all that said, I give it 5 stars.

The fact that it's written by one person (Jason Reynolds) and the art is done by another (Jason Griffin) is striking, because the art and the words seem to intuitively go together. There are authors' notes at the back of my (library) copy that talk about their collaborative method & how Reynolds & Griffin have known each other for over 20 years, which I think you can really feel.

A book that speaks to the effort to survive 2020, I didn't expect the hope that it contained.
And that was very, very beautiful.
Profile Image for Brittany (whatbritreads).
642 reviews1,080 followers
July 10, 2022
*Thank you to Bookshop.org for sending me a copy of this book!*

This book is really beautiful, and I knew I was going to love it from the aesthetics alone. Rather than a story, this felt like a piece of art in my hands. It’s formatted like an actual notebook, completed with high quality paper and an elastic mechanism to close it, just like a real notebook. I loved it.

Opening this book just transports you into another beautiful tiny world as well. The illustrations were absolutely amazing, and the creativity that has clearly gone into this project is pretty mind blowing. The art and entire concept was flawless, coupled with the most intense storytelling. It was so lyrically written, like true poetry. And just like poetry, full of such emotion. It was honestly astounding how this book could convey so much using so few words. So much was unsaid yet I could hear what it was telling me so clearly. I was in awe.

This is a book you could ip in and out of, go in for time and time again and not get tired. It was so engaging and well put together. I loved it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,577 reviews

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