In the L.A. suburb of Huntington Park, Lola Vasquez, 26, is the de facto leader of the Crenshaw Six, a small-time gang helping to distribute drugs and collect cash for a larger, more powerful cartel. In theory, the gang’s leader is Garcia, Lola’s boyfriend, with the gang keeping the secret that the actual head is Lola.
One of the members of the gang, to Lola’s chagrin, is her younger brother Hector, which creates problems for her when he messes up. Her life is also complicated by her mother, Maria, who pimped out Lola when she was little so Maria could get her fixes. Lola both hates her and loves her.
In one encounter, Maria mentions to Lola she’s watching her cholesterol. You can just see Lola gritting her teeth as she thinks:
“Growing up, she and Hector ate Spam and hot dogs and sugary fruit punch three times a day. They watched their mother shoot up. Lola did things with and to men, so Maria could shoot up. And now Maria’s concerned about her cholesterol.”
She knows it damaged her. As she muses when she goes on reconnaissance to an upscale gym:
“Is there another god present here that no one ever told her about, the god of self-worth and self-confidence and self-esteem?”
Lola defends what she does:
“…when she looks at white-collar industries – real estate, hedge funds, stocks – she can’t say they traffic in any product much different from her own. They are all of them looking to exploit, to squeeze pennies and dollars and power from people who need what they peddle.”
But mostly, she is tired of playing a role, of being the little unseen woman behind Garcia. She wants to be herself: “Lola Vasquez, up-and-coming queenpin.…”
She gets involved in a big mess though, coming between two different cartels. She ruefully observes that the only things she feels unsure of are which one will kill her and how exactly she will die.
Evaluation: I really liked the ways in which this book about gangs and gang violence had the gender roles upended. Lola did not shy away from violence and yet I found myself rooting for her all the same; I thought she was a great character.
Published by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, 2017