The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.
When I saw the crime novel, Lola, on blogging for books, I knew I had to get a copy. It seems that when the main protagonist of a story is a female, her compassion is seen as a weakness. Often, female protagonists are portrayed as overly masculine, i.e., “one of the boys,” or they are hyper-sexualized. It’s nice to read a realistic female protagonist that is neither of these. Yes, she’s a hot chica, and yes, she’s the ruthless leader of the Crenshaw Six, but her compassion offers nuance that’s often missing from fiction. I think one of the biggest things in the plus column for Lola, is that she feels like a real person.
From a human behavior analysis, the trials and tribulations of Lola’s childhood are perfectly followed through by the author. If Lola were a real person, and sought clinical help, I could easily see the causality of her past. And like a real person, she is who she is because of those experiences, and also in spite of those experiences. I’m not sure if the author did a lot of research, or if she draws from her own experiences or those of someone close to her. The accurate portrayal of human behavior is refreshing, because so often it’s exaggerated for effect.
There are underlying themes of prejudice and gender roles. Lola couldn’t possibly be the leader of the Crenshaw Six. That’s what everybody thinks, until it’s too late. A trail of clues is sprinkled through out the story that reveals what the reader knows, to the rest of the characters: Lola is a badass, and you better not [mess] with her or those that she cares about. Lola is cunning. She’s ruthless. Adversity is the brush she and her brother are painted with. She won’t back down, and she certainly won’t quit. These actions are Lola’s strength. A strength that serves her until the end of the story.
If I had a single complaint about Lola, it’s that the cartel characters are portrayed like they are in most books and movies: cruel, sadistic, and marginally competent. They are clichés of every villain I’ve ever read. Still, as a complaint, “the villains were too villainy,” is not the worst criticism. Fans of Breaking Bad, or Greg Dragon’s The Factory will enjoy Lola. I award it five stars, and look forward to reading more by Melissa Scrivner Love.
MELISSA SCRIVNER LOVE was born to a police officer father and a court stenographer mother. After earning a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University, Melissa moved to Los Angeles, where she has lived for over a decade. During that time, she has written for several television shows, among them Life, CSI: Miami, and Person of Interest. She and her husband, a comedy writer and Los Angeles native, welcomed their daughter in 2014. Lola is her first novel.