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'Game Changer' by Shawn 'Solo' Fonteno


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I hope this is the appropriate section for a post about this..


I just wrapped up reading Solo's memoir and thought I'd make a post for people to discuss their thoughts if they have read it. I wrote a review (first one I've ever done so it's not great lol) to submit on Amazon because there were none up yet and I want to support this project. I'll post it down below in case anyone in interested. I'd love to hear anyone else's perspective if they have read it.


"This book is a memoir from Shawn 'Solo' Fonteno, detailing his upbringing, life in the streets of Watts, Los Angeles, and eventually landing a life-changing role as one of the three protagonists/anti-heroes in video game phenomenon Grand Theft Auto V. 


During my time with 'Game Changer', a recurring thought I had every time I hurriedly turned the page was: 'wow, this would make a fantastic movie or television series'. Solo's life has every aspect of a well rounded, engaging story: struggle, success, betrayal, heartbreak, action, and ultimately a heart-warming, empowering, and triumphant redemption.


The first point I want to emphasise to potential buyers is that this book is short - it clocks in at just under 200 pages of large, widely spaced words - and this is why I have opted for 4 stars and not 5. I finished the book in perhaps 3ish hours, and I'm not a fast reader.


As this book is a non-fiction memoir, it makes sense that the length of the book is limited by the stories worth telling, but the problem is that I feel like the book skims over many significant events in his life, and leaves many stories teased, but untold. Solo has clearly led a very engaging and interesting life, and this book could easily be several times the length it is.

For example he mentions, in passing, that he was vice-president of a motorcycle club which intrigued me, but he didn't delve into that whatsoever. How did he get into motorcycles? Who did he ride with? Does he still belong to that scene? 


Another example is that he discusses how his grandmother's house became his base of operations in his 'gang banger' days and sets his grandmother up to be a central part of his story, and then he just jumps to having his own home in the hills once he became established in the streets, without really detailing that transition or how his familial relationships developed and changed over the years.

This becomes a recurring theme throughout the book - it's a very engaging read and a definite page-turner, but it doesn't feel fleshed out enough and doesn't quite do justice to his journey, which is undoubtedly one worth telling. Everything could use a bit more detail and depth.


But ultimately, my complaints with this book boil down to the fact that I couldn't get enough. I was hungry for more. And that's not a terribly bad problem to have, really.


I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this book, and it does a great job at immersing the reader in his culture and experiences. I really felt like I was in the streets of Watts with Solo, and I found many of the anecdotes to be well told, relatable and surprisingly emotional. I shed tears to his struggles, and felt an overwhelming sense of triumph to his successes.


Solo Fonteno's story is one I would highly recommend to fans of the GTA series, or anyone interested in LA street culture during the 80's and 90's, when money and drugs were flooding the streets, and police corruption was rife.

I can absolutely see myself dipping back into the book in the future, and hopefully it will be successful enough to inspire a bolder, more fleshed-out follow-up, or perhaps even this could provide the basis for an exploration into his life through a different lens - a TV series or movie based on this story could be magic.


Considering this is his first foray into writing (with help from author Yusuf Jah), I think this book stands strong and bold, and succeeds in it's objective to give the reader an opportunity to walk in Solo Fonteno's shoes for a brief, but immensely impactful journey.  


The most exciting thing about this book is that it ends on such a high, and anyone who follows Shawn 'Solo' Fonteno knows that this is just the beginning of a new era for him. This book has really shown me how significant and transformative GTA V has been for Solo's life, and I can't wait to see his next moves."

Edited by Chazza354
correcting misspelling
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I went with the audiobook, which is Shawn Fonteno reading the complete text in three hours, with sound design to set the scenes and a brief appearance by Ned Luke voicing some of the quotes of himself. Considering how short it is this seemed like the ideal format, besides we're here because we like to hear the voice of Franklin, right?


I agree with the review that as an autobiography it is very incomplete, but as a work of entertainment it delivers by adhering to the advice to leave 'em wanting more. What's covered leaves you with a lot to think about, a lot of dots to connect and implications to realize. The whole thing with DJ Pooh being the guy who has, twice, been the indispensible connection to help Rockstar cast authentic characters from South L.A. is interesting to think about. On bad days, but certainly not in this Rockstar-approved book, the issues of cultural vampirism and exploitation have been touched upon elsewhere. Also left unaddressed is, why is Shawn Fonteno having such a different post-game life and career than Chris Bellard/Young Maylay, an elephant in the room, barely mentioned despite the similar background and history of also being recruited by D.J. Pooh to be a GTA protagonist. You'd think if you're one of the only people something happened to and by chance you know one of the only others who the same thing happened to him, there'd be more comparing and contrasting. It's like if two James Bond actors were related. But whatever, maybe it's not for public consumption and Fonteno chooses to leave his cousin to tell  his own story if he wants. The release of the book was apparently postponed for the marketing advantage of being out near Franklin's return in GTA Online: The Contract but there isn't much or anything said about the production of that, though Fonteno seems to say he's been continuously employed by Rockstar for the last 10 years. I may have more questions than I did before. But despite the information underload, the audiobook is a solid, emotional experience that shouldn't disappoint anyone who might consider it.


There's also a comic book version but it's a Part 1, so I might wait to see if the whole story gets illustrated before I check it out. They're really covering the multimedia bases. But again, where's Young Maylay's book, which if there had been one could have been timed to coincide with the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition. I mean it's not like we're going to get a Ray Liotta memoir of Vice City.

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