The other night I finished Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack, who was born in Lexington Ky oddly enough. He currently lives in New York which is the setting of the story. I had never heard of this story until I was reading a blog about scary stories and this one was mentioned. I did a little research and it sounded pretty good so I decided to check it out.
I am not sure if I have mentioned it before but I love dystopian society stories, they are my absolute favorite. My two favorite books of all time are Clockwork Orange and Brave New World. I cannot talk about this genre without mentioning 1984 and Animal Farm, both are great reads, but in my opinion they do not compare to my two favorites. Anyways…
The novel is a Epistolary novel, meaning it is written using diary entries from a 12 year old girl (Lola) living in New York City. So when reading the novel you are essentially reading the diary of the main character. This is only the second book I have read with this style, the other being Dracula by Bram Stoker. The story opens as the main character explains that she got a new diary for her birthday and she is excited and will try to write in it every day. The story goes on to detail the life of an upper middle class family struggling to survive disastrous economic times. In fact the economy is so bad that during the course of the story multiple, that’s right more than one, presidents are assassinated. Her mother just lost her job as a teacher and her father is a struggling writer who is having trouble selling ideas to producers because of the economy. The mother has a sister on the west coast in Los Angles so you get to see how different parts of the country are reacting to certain events.
The family eventually has to move from a nice apartment to a cheaper apartment in a rough area of New York. Lola, the main character, tells how she is ostracized by her wealthier friends because of the move. So the reader gets to see the financial struggles as well as the social struggles the characters deal with. As you will see children can be more cruel than adults. Another interesting element to the story is that until the end you cannot tell if Lola is gay or not, she seems to struggle with her sexuality throughout the whole story.
The world Lola and her family live in is a powder keg in a room full of candles. Throughout the story it seems that the country is a breath away from an all out civil war. There are riots in L.A. as well as New York, and an all out war in another borough of the city, smoke and ash from the fires often cover all of New York. The national guard as well as the army are called in to try and restore the peace.
Before the move Lola seems like a sweet, kind, naive young girl, I would assume like most 12 year olds. Slowly you can see her start to change. Even though she is young you see her try to understand the world she lives in. Her parents are constantly arguing over money, Lola is just old enough to understand the gravity of the adult world. She writes in her journal about conversations she has with her parents about money, and asking them about their financial situation.
Once the family moves to the new neighborhood, the reader really starts to see the transformation. She befriends a few girls near her age that live in this rough part of New York. Her new friends are immigrants from Caribbean islands and they all speak in a hard to read slang. Their two worlds were completely different, but now Lola has to adapt to survive. As I mentioned above you really start to see her change, the way she writes in her journal and the way she talks all start to mimic her new friends. The biggest change is to her personality. Her new friends are out most nights on the streets engaging in less that legal activities. Lola does not bat an eye to join in with them even though she knows it is wrong. At the end you see that Lola has just about gone over the deep end, she is a shell of her former loveable self and had reached a breaking point to where there is no turning back.
For me I liked the character development, it drives the whole story. By the end all the characters are falling apart both mentally and physically. You really get an idea of what it takes to survive in this world, and what each character has to do. Overall I liked the story, it is a new take my favorite theme. Many other dystopian society stories all have different factors, but this one is interesting because it puts a more economic spin on the genre. A lot of the hardships in the story have to do with money, lost jobs, and just struggling to make ends meet. There is nothing fancy or spectacular about any of those, but they are real facts of life and this story does a great job showing the other side of those horrors that sometimes go unnoticed.
The only real negative of this story and it’s a small one is the slang language Lola’s Caribbean friends speak. It is very difficult to read and I found myself rereading what they said a few times to comprehend it. But this is a small issue and honestly adds more to the story than it takes away. I also, wanted to mention there are some pretty graphic scenes in the story but to me they show just how dangerous and terrifying this world is to live in. If you love the genre you should defiantly check this one out.