Dave: I was hesitant to read this book thinking it would just be another glorified gangster story that we so often see on TV. What I read instead was a story of how a young boy is swept up into the ruthless world of gang life doing whatever it takes to rise to the top of his set. We see the the rise of Monster Kody, so called for his Monstrous ruthlessness as a soldier for the “Eight Trays” his East LA gang, to his inevitable time in juvenile detention and prison, and his eventual transition from gangster to joining the New African Independence Movement.
Sanyika takes the reader through the mean streets of East LA; exploring the different hand gestures, clothes, graffiti and loyalty of gang life; of how getting off at the wrong bus stop in the wrong neighborhood can cost you your life. The author also voices his opinion on what he thinks is wrong with the system, adding to the prevalence of gangsterism.
The loyalty, patriotism and honor of these gang members is very similar to the young soldiers going overseas to fight in a government sanctioned war. There is fear of the unknown, the relentlessness of always watching your back and the debilitating affects of post traumatic stress disorder. The war fought at home though is almost entirely ignored by society.
I found this book to be a very revealing and important read and am glad I gave it a chance. The one thing that really stood out is that all this killing is mostly done by children (it reminded me of “The Lord of the Flies“). It’s a book that not only teaches you something but keeps you asking questions long after it’s finished.