Lola: A Novel

Lola: A Novel - Melissa Love I just finished reading [b:Lola|30900212|Lola|Melissa Scrivner Love||51530270] by Melissa Scrivner Love and it wasn't a book or an author that I was at all familiar with so I basically had no preconceived expectations for this book and honestly, I think I prefer it that way because I really get to read a book with an open mind and form my own opinions when there are no outside influences to factor in. I basically was just drawn to the cover, read the synopsis and found that to be intriguing and decided to give this book ago. I guess it's not surprising that I hadn't heard of this book or author considering the book doesn't officially come out until March and this is Love's debut novel. I'm always excited to read an author's first time publication, especially if it turns out to be enjoyable (obviously!) and this particular book didn't disappoint.

This was completely unlike anything else I've read in a very long time in terms of characters and setting and plot. Although, several years back I went through a phase where I read a lot of, what my friends and I referred to as, "hood books", although I'm sure there's a more pc term for them...urban fiction perhaps? Books like [b:The Cartel|5953477|The Cartel (The Cartel, #1)|Ashley Antoinette||6126052](series) and [b:The Prada Plan|6251087|The Prada Plan (The Prada Plan, #1)|Ashley Antoinette||6433962] by Ashley Antoinette and JaQuavis Coleman where the characters are usually African American or Hispanic and usually involved in a profession that is not widely accepted by society (not to mention illegal) like selling drugs, gang banging, Pimpin' hoes, to name a few. These books always take place in inner city, high crime areas and often the main characters will start out in the ghetto and work their way up to a very lucrative, albeit illegal, career affording them fancy homes and fast cars in gated communities, or the end up dead or in jail. Very predictable outcome but I found them entertaining, almost like a soap opera would be where you don't take it seriously, you don't admit to enjoying it but sometimes when no ones looking you can't help but indulge in the guilty (shameful) pleasure. They were also very quick, easy reads and I could read one from cover to cover in one setting and again, we're not talking about intellectually stimulating literature by any stretch, just trashy, fun entertainment. I found that [b:Lola|30900212|Lola|Melissa Scrivner Love||51530270] reminded me a lot of those types of books although it was on a much higher literary level, much better written with much more depth and overall content then the typical "hood book" but the tone and the theme along with the characters and the setting was very urban and very street.

[b:Lola|30900212|Lola|Melissa Scrivner Love||51530270] is about a 20 something Hispanic woman, born and raised in South Central Las Angeles who learned from a very young age how to fend for, and protect, herself. Her mother is a heroin addict who would pimp Lola out to drug dealers for a fix and as a teenager Lola caught her mother offering her seven year old brother, Hector, heroin to try for himself. That was the last straw for Lola and she moved herself, and Hector, in with her gangster boyfriend who is the leader of a local street gang that called themselves "The Crenshaw 6". It doesn't take long before Lola earns the respect of the gang members and eventually they come to accept her as their leader although, as far as anyone else knows that title belongs to her boyfriend because as a woman she doesn't have the street credibility or the respect that she would have were she a man.

As the story progresses The Crenshaw 6 and Lola find themselves in conflict with rival gangs, law enforcement, a district attorney, a white drug dealer, and their own family members to name only a few, so there isn't a lack of difficult decisions that could easily mean the death of Lola or those closest to her if she makes the wrong choice of an ally vs. adversary. There is also a five year old girl, Lucy, who is introduced into Lola's life when she runs away from home because she was being abused by her drug addicted mother's boyfriend so Lola takes her in. I loved reading about her relationship with Lola and I think she added a cute dynamic to the story and brought out the softer side of Lola. As did Valentine, the pit bull she rescued from a dog fighting situation and now treats her just like she's Lola's own child which absolutely makes me melt! I am the biggest softie ever for animals, especially dogs, so I loved reading about Lola's and little Lucy's interactions with Valentine.

I think this book stayed very true to its setting and characters and Love did a great job painting a realistic picture of a lifestyle that is so foreign to me while making it believable and in the same time empowering the lead female character who was stuck in a man's world with all its limitations but still found away to overcome the odds and be the head bitch in charge! I loved the way Lola lived what society would call a "bad" life doing "bad" things (like murder and selling drugs) but I was still able to perceive her as a morally good person who was a product of her environment trying to do the best she could with the hand she'd been and never once did she complain or appear to feel sorry for herself. I found Lola to be a very strong, likable character and I enjoyed reading about her struggles and triumphs and gained a great deal of appreciation for her courage and strength. I can't imagine what it would be like to be born into a life predisposed to so many awful things with so much stacked against you at no fault of your own but that was the reality that Love illustrates throughout this novel and, considering the circumstances, I think Lola was pretty remarkable despite her flaws and imperfections. I'll be looking forward to reading more work by Melissa Scrivner Love in the future. I'm rating [b:Lola|30900212|Lola|Melissa Scrivner Love||51530270] with four out of five stars and this is a book I would definitely recommend to anyone.

I received an advanced reading copy of "Lola" from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.