When I taught high school, I kept a Thug Life notebook–a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of all my students who were arrested for serious violations.
True story. I mean, at one of my teaching assignments, which in hindsight was my favorite, we had a full-time probation officer housed in our building. I had more kids with ankle monitors than pencils.
So it’s no surprise to me that fifteen-year-old kids can and do break the law.
My Thug Life notebook has clippings for murders, drug deals gone south, attempted murders, sexual assaults–you name it, it’s in there.
So when I heard about the book, DODGERS, I knew I had to read it.
Yes, it was published in 2016, but better late than dead (insert echoing refrain from NWA’s Straight Outta Compton.)
Title is linked to Amazon and there are no spoilers ahead:
This is a coming-of-age story with a twist.
East is a fifteen-year-old yard boy (part-look-out/part bouncer) at one of the drug houses in Los Angeles’s urban boxes (projects for those who do not speak Thug.)
East has a thirteen-year-old half-brother, Ty, who left home a few years earlier and is a violent, silent mystery who comes in and out of his life.
So when the cops raid the drug house and shit goes down, East is assigned to a new job.
His uncle is a kingpin and he wants East to go on a road trip to Wisconsin to kill off a judge who is going to testify in an L.A. court case in a matter of a week or so.
The trip is shrouded in mystery. No cell phones. No guns. No way to trace the killers’ steps. Killers. Plural. You see East isn’t going alone.
Driving the nondescript blue minivan is Michael Wilson, a smooth college boy who can talk his way out of trouble.
Riding shotgun, is Walter. Overweight and hungry, Walter has ways of getting any kind of document they might need from a fake ID to a whole new identity.
East is in the middle van seat. He is a deeply thoughtful young man who, despite his environment, has a conscience but also lives by a certain code. Conflicted, yes, but a pragmatist.
And then half-brother Ty is in the back. With a video game and a gun. Even though they weren’t supposed to have any guns until they arrived in Wisconsin.
This trip will be the first time the guys are out of their environment. And they are in for a rocky road full of things they never would have believed existed east of the San Bernardino mountains.
It’s a weird world out there. And truth is stranger than fiction.
As a reader, I fell in love with East. He is so poignantly rendered by author Beverly, that I felt I was along for the job by his side. My heart hurt for him. My mama-senses rooted for him.
Plus, I love a good road-trip story. Especially involving fish-out-of-water. Double-score.
This is a fast, gritty read. I could not put it down. If I were still teaching high school English, this would be my go-to book for young people who think they have few, if any, options in life.
But it’s also a great read for adults. Holden Caulfield for a new millennium–and a country that looks vastly different than it did fifty-years ago. Even Wisconsin. Sometimes.
Foxy Rating Scale – Five out of Five Foxes
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick