I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Dodgers: A Novel by Bill Beverly
Published by Crown on April 5th 2016
Genres: Coming-of-Age, Crime
Source: Library Thing
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In this stunning debut, author Bill Beverly delivers a story unlike anything else in fiction: a dark, haunting, literary crime novel that is also a powerful coming-of-age narrative, and one that will be sure to appeal to fans of Richard Price or The Wire.
.Dodgers. is the story of a young man named East who works for an LA drug gang, sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East’s hotheaded younger brother—to kill a witness connected to a major case, who is hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he’s never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, and over the course of his journey the book brings in elements from a diverse array of genres, ranging from crime fiction to road narrative to coming-of-age novel. Written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit, .Dodgers heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction.
‘Every road had a number and joined up a hundred times with other roads. He saw how they would go. This was like the mazes they use to do in school while the teacher slept. What they said in school was: Don’t worry. Keep looking at it. You can always get there.’
At only fifteen-years-old, East has been working as a lookout for two years at a Los Angeles drug house in a place known as the Boxes. He’s a tough young man and does his job well but when the established system fails and the house falls to the authorities, East is concerned he won’t be trusted any longer. His uncle, Fin, the drug lord he works for, has a new job for him though: a road trip with a crew of boys to kill a witness before he can testify in rural Wisconsin. While the murder is the objective, this road trip becomes much more a coming-of-age tale (regardless of the fact that these boys are mature beyond their years) when they get a glimpse of a world outside of Los Angeles that they have never seen before.
‘Flight, they called it. One part fear, one part the blindest excitement you’d ever known. It freed you from time, from who you were or the matter of what you’d done. You darted, like a fish away from a net, like a dog outrunning a dogcatcher.’
East has street smarts, there’s no doubt about that, but thrown into a world far different from his own causes him to almost regress and become more childlike and naive than the young man we were first introduced to. He adapts and does so quickly, with his determination to survive anything kicking into gear. In addition to East is Walter who has big dreams with a love of science, Michael Wilson who helps aid the drug runs at UCLA, and East’s thirteen-year-old brother Ty who has quickly become callous and hardhearted from the life he leads. None of the boys get along with one another, not even East and his brother, so they not only have to contend with learning how to navigate a world they’ve never been a part of but curb their conflicts with one another so they can make it there in one piece in order to finish the job. Things don’t exactly go to plan, despite the clear-cut path laid out for them.
Bill Beverly manages to successfully portray a calamitous way of life in an undisclosed time period. The research he conducted on criminal fugitives for his non-fiction book, On the Lam, clearly was utilized in this fictional tale. The aspect of this story that really shined for me were the descriptions of the surroundings and how these boys visualized the simplest of things them through their naiveté. This is not an action-packed story of street crime but is rather a haunting, character driven tale that succeeded in balancing despair and hope in equal measure.