Lola stands next to Garcia while he mans the grill in their craggy square of backyard. The barbeque has just begun, and the women are clustered gossiping, while the men hold sweating beers. Lola prefers the periphery.
Business has been good lately in their tiny nugget of South Central Los Angeles, where a legit man has two choices: landscaping off-the-books for West Side white cash, or sweating through twelve-hour shifts at a factory in Vernon. Garcia does not make his living either way. If Lola were like the other women at her barbeque, she would spend her work day perched on a padded stool behind a dollar store cash register. But Lola is not like the other women in Huntington Park.
Suddenly: a sharp knock on the front door, probably a cop. Lola goes to answer it. The man standing there is Mexican, not Mexican-American, like everybody else here. Lola searches his face for a bead of sweat but comes up empty. She has never met him, but she knows his name. Everyone in this neighborhood knows his name. They call him The Collector, and he won’t give them long.
Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
Publication Date: March 21, 2017 by Crown Publishing
This is definitely not a book I would have picked up on first glance at the book store, but I ended up winning an ARC so I decided to give Lola a chance and I’m glad I did.
There are things that I really enjoyed about the story: the author’s writing style, the powerful, female lead, and reading about a small-time gang in poverty stricken LA: a topic I definitely can’t relate to. I’m all for branching out and I appreciate authors and books that can take me out of my comfort zone and broaden my world view and Lola definitely fit into that category.
What made this a 3/3.5 stars read for me was ultimately Lola herself. Lola was such a fearless, intelligent, and badass female character. While far from perfect, her narrative and internal dialogues always felt real and I always found myself rooting for her, even when she was more of the villain than the hero at times. She knew the challenges she faced, especially as the only female leader in a gang world ruled by machismo and her acknowledgement of these barriers was always brutally real and often discomforting. It was this honesty that I especially appreciated about the novel.
While the writing was fantastic, I often found myself thinking I would have enjoyed Lola more if it were a film or a TV series. Since a lot of the plot revolved around action, I had difficulties keeping up at times since I’m more of a visual person and found myself needing to re-read sections of the book to avoid missing important details. I tend to gravitate towards books that are heavy on character development rather than plot and other than Lola, most of the characters in this book fell flat for me.
Because of the emphasis on action, there were times during my reading that I found myself questioning the repetitive nature of certain observations Lola would make about the people around her. While this worked in the beginning of the storyline, by the end I began to feel like the author was trying to drive home certain points regarding racism and classism and had just run out of ways to say it. This made some of Lola’s internal dialogue seem a bit forced towards the end of the novel which is what kept me from truly loving this book.
Overall, this was a fast-paced read that was entirely different from what I usually pick up. I was happy to branch out a bit and ultimately had fun reading this book. Fans of TV shows/films like Breaking Bad and Kill Bill, or more action-based fiction with badass female characters (think Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) should pick up a copy of Lola!