Genre: Crime Thriller
Publication Date: 21 March 2017
“Lola plays hostess at a barbecue thrown by her boyfriend, Garcia, leader of the Crenshaw Six, a small but up-and-coming gang in gritty South Central Los Angeles. Lola brings coffee and cookies to El Coleccionista, a midlevel member of the Mexican cartel, who is offering Garcia and his gang a chance to prove themselves to the cartel in hopes of gaining more corners and bigger business. What no one suspects is that Lola is the true leader of the Crenshaw Six and is far more dangerous than she seems. At once a hardened criminal mastermind and a vulnerable woman—fiercely ambitious and utterly devoted to protecting her own—Lola is fascinating, complex, and utterly unique. As the Crenshaw Six is plunged further into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, Lola’s skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.
Expertly paced, stuffed with naturalistic, yet memorable dialogue, Lola reads like a master class in thriller writing. Lola is an antihero whom readers will love and fear as they find themselves rooting for one of the bad guys.”
My Thoughts: Lola is another novel in which the timing of its release is just about perfect. After all, what could be more representative of the slogan “Nevertheless, she persisted” than a female drug lord in the traditionally male-ruled South Central LA? The fact that no one recognizes her as the leader underscores what millions of women have and continue to face in every career field in existence since women started working outside the home. Men never consider women natural leaders and often fail to recognize those skills in women or deem them unladylike. For Lola, being ladylike is not the issue, but being the cold-blooded murderer necessary to lead a gang is very much the issue. Make no mistake, Lola is capable of murder and so much more.
Lola is no hero. In fact, she is as dirty as any drug lord and as ruthless. You should not support her efforts to increase her territory; she is, after all, peddling the very same drugs that harm the residents of her community. However, it does not take long to realize that she is a victim as much as she is an instigator. Moreover, she might not hesitate to pull the trigger or slit someone’s throat, but she is also emotionally vulnerable. She may be a drug lord but she is also a woman with a severely traumatic childhood and someone who is not quite as capable of compartmentalizing different areas of her life as she should be. As such, it becomes way too easy to sympathize and even pity Lola for what life forced onto her.
In spite of the awesome female power Lola exudes as the gang leader, one cannot help but get a sneaking suspicion that Ms. Love is enforcing one too many stereotypes onto her female anti-hero. Throughout the course of the novel Lola exhibits a nurturing side, considering her gang members to be her boys and the gang’s turf her community to protect. She is the leader but wants her boyfriend’s opinion. She second-guesses her decisions and sometimes opts for lesser punishments other than those established by the gang code. Even though she is the leader, she is also the gang’s nurturer. It is an odd dichotomy given her profession and one that appears to exist only because she is female. In fact, the other gang leaders we meet are not so hesitant to mete out the appropriate level of punishment or get caught up doing menial tasks around the house. Then again, this could be me projecting. Perhaps Ms. Love meant nothing by the fact that Lola cleans her mother’s house on her hands and knees each week, that she has to worry about keeping her man happy so that he doesn’t run back to his ex-girlfriend, that she shows mercy in a position where none typically exists. While I celebrate seeing a strong women in power, I struggle with the message Ms. Love also seems to present regarding traditional female roles and behaviors.
Just because I may feel uncomfortable about some of the story’s messaging, that does not mean that I did not rip through the novel as quickly as possible, fervently wishing I did not have to adult but could keep reading. The plot pacing is fast and furious, and Lola IS a sympathetic character, stereotypes or not. You become emotionally involved in her story, rooting her on, hoping that she can stay alive. Even her acts of violence take on an acceptable hue as you view them as a means for Lola to succeed, and you so want her to succeed because she represents every battered woman, every neglected and abused child, every woman given up for lost. For her to come out alive and even ahead is a win for everyone she embodies.