I havenâ€™t read a novel as immediately engrossing as this in a couple of years. Hereâ€™s how engrossing it was: I took it with me on vacation. No big deal. But when the end was in sight, I planned to stay up late reading. My girlfriend objected to the light being on (she wanted to sleep; no fun!), so I turned off the light and went to sit on the bathroom floor for the better part of an hour so I could finish it. Itâ€™s that good.
Itâ€™s the story of the Rodney King riots of 1992, told through the perspectives of 10 or 12 individuals, each given a chapterâ€™s focus. But the story doesnâ€™t add up to tell us so much what the riots were about or what caused them or any other big-deal idea. Rather, it gets us deep into the minds, worlds, and emotions of people who find themselves living in a city where law, order, andâ€”basicallyâ€”reality, have been suspended for the better part of a week.
Most of the characters in the book are Latino gang members; not exactly the group that springs to mind when you think about the riots. These people arenâ€™t necessarily participants in the riots, but they certainly take advantage of the conditions created by them.
The book is shockingly violent and thick with profanity, but also built on a foundation of fantastic insights into human hearts and minds, a great ear for dialogue and a sense of humor, and a truly profound sense of empathy. Think of it as a bit like David Peaceâ€™s Red Riding novels transplanted to LA.
If you donâ€™t mind violence and profanity, and have even the slightest sliver of interest in these topics, get this book now. Itâ€™s hard to imagine reading a better new novel this year.