This week I finished LOLA which came out in March of this year and was written by debut author Melissa Scrivner Love. Over the course of a week and a half we go through an experience with Lola that has the potential to solidify her in a world she leads from the shadows. With a deadline and the threat of death from multiple drug lords, Lola is tested as she emerges as the true leader of LA gang, the Crenshaw Six.
When the book opens, we meet Lola, our narrator and the girlfriend of a man named Garcia who is assumed to be the leader of a gang which controls blocks in the neighborhood of Crenshaw. We are at a back yard BBQ when a messenger from the cartel arrives and wants to speak to Garcia, giving him a mission to interrupt a drug deal between a cartel customer and a rival supplier. Throughout this meeting Lola hovers on the fringe, notting everything the man says and also how he acts and her inner dialogue immediately sheds color on the woman whose psyche we are going to be in for the next couple hundred pages. Short sentences, to the point and very observant. Whether or not someone’s English has an accent, if they are sweating and nervous, the way the air feels and tastes in the LA heat. It is clear that she is a very reliable narrator…and one who knows a vast amount more than what people expect her to. Within the first few pages, it is clear that Lola is the one running things and no one yet realizes this outside of her five soldiers.
The mission set to the Crenshaw Six, the drug deal from which they are to recoup a name plus both the cash and the loot, goes terribly wrong. And from here we have a chain of events that propel Lola into having to navigate between the cartel and this new drug supplier (who turns out to be rich and white) selling heroin to upper class users. First daunting task set to Lola: find out who this new man is, infiltrate his organization, and find out where his stash is held. Her deadline: one week. Next task: after having infiltrated said organization, Lola must prove her loyalty to the white man for him to trust her. He tells her to kill the man who was the cartel client. The one from the deal. She is again given one week. Throughout all of this, Lola is pretty collected. We see the actions of a calculating leader who’s people trust her and the plans that she comes up with to get them through these situations. It is wonderfully eerie to read passages outlined with her practical business like manner and then to flip the page and have her trying to do good and create a safe space for a little girl.
In addition to the little girl, Lola also cares for her mother who is a recovering junkie. These two responsibilities illustrate the domestic side of Lola’s life. The balance that is consciously kept between gang leader Lola and dutiful daughter and woman Lola. She narrates about how she uses conceptions of her, often misconceptions, to her advantage. And people constantly underestimate her. I really enjoyed how she trolled these waters looking for her in to the game with the men. Lola’s confidence and level headedness is what I enjoyed most about her and this work, I think. There are a couple of other females that aren’t as flushed out as they could’ve been whose deeper perspectives could’ve been interesting.
The deadline and climax of both missions happens so near the end I thought it was going to be a cliffhanger. That being said, wether she makes it or not, there is room in this world to flush out more stories. I think Love could develop quite a few tales and am interested to see what she does next.