The Crown Publishing
Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger. It is the story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East’s hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness 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, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become.
It’s hard to believe that Dodgers, by Bill Beverly, is actually a debut novel. It was so unexpected and great. Dodgers is gritty and beautiful at the same time, a mix between a crime novel and a coming-of-age story. I could easily picture the film being directed by Clint Eastwood or Ben Affleck. It’d probably win many Oscars.
The book revolves around East (Easton, sometimes E, sometimes Easy), a young gang member living in LA. East is only fifteen years old but is way more mature than other men and super serious about his job. He’s spent almost all his life working for her uncle in The Boxes, watching the drug houses and making sure everything runs smoothly. He has a mother he almost never sees and a younger brother who’s already a dangerous gunner.
After the police raids one of the houses, Fin (East’s uncle) gives him an important assignment to redeem himself: he must drive to Wisconsin to kill a judge who’s about to testify against Fin’s gang. East won’t be alone: Michael Wilson (a young college student), Walter ( probably the kindest of the bunch) and Ty (his younger brother) are also asked to go on the same mission. Think of Stand By Me but picture it way more dangerous.
The book follows this weird road-trip and all its consequences. Because, as you can expect: things don’t go as planned. What I loved the most about Dodgers is that East hasn’t really chosen this kind of life, he doesn’t know any better. He had never left LA, so when he finally does, a new world appears in front of him. Is this what he really wants to do? Is it okay to live like this?
The book is full of dialogue for the most part and the conversations were engaging and fun to read. However, the last part of the novel is more introspective and slow-paced, which also fit perfectly. Also, the ending was subtle and perfect.
If you love stories about gangsters, street gangs and young people who haven’t had as many opportunities in life, you’re probably going to love this novel as much as I did. I wouldn’t say this is a thriller, but a noir coming-of-age novel.
I believe Bill Beverly did an awesome job with the atmosphere and I loved getting to know East and his silences, his intelligence. I’ll definitely miss him.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.