I expected to like this, but instead found it disappointing.
Jonathan "Shakey" Reed is a hustler whose empire is starting to crumble, thanks, in part, to his association with a crooked cop. Jessica is a young woman who was sexually abused by her stepfather, and who now finds herself living on the streets, unsuccessful supporting herself as a hooker, and with growing crack addiction. Christopher is a young runaway whose abusive childhood mirrors Shakey's. Over the course of the novel, their lives intersect and they attempt to build a future together.
At least, I assume that is what happens, since I bailed at about page 270. To the novel's credit, there are stretches of good, almost lyrical writing, and it presents a pull-no-punches depiction of urban street life.
But...in the quest to be real, it lavishes details on every aspect of urban life to the point of being utterly banal. The first hint of a problem comes at the beginning, when the narrative expends tons of ink and paper on a detailed description of Shakey's morning routine: shower, tooth brushing, etc. Okay--maybe--since Shakey is one of the main characters and the rough center of the story. Soon after, however, Jessica and her colleagues in ho-in' are introduced. In great detail. The problem? Only one character--Sharon, Jessica's sort-of-friend and pimp--is seen after this point, and only for a brief scene. In general, the story meanders from one place to another as the three characters go about their rather aimless lives. Despite the premise--Shakey's diminishing power in a world where power and respect is everything--there's never any real sense of urgency.
In addition, the story relies too heavily on a "tell, don't show" approach to characterization. For example, at the beginning, I'm told that Shakey is a kind of renaissance thug, with an extensive library of books. And he's read every one. Except there's never any suggestion of his literacy in any of his actions or inner dialogue. He behaves like a standard issue hustler.
The story rather effectively lost me, however, during one of its attempts to show Shakey's softer side. At some point in the recent past, Shakey hit a dog with his car. The dog survived, barely, but its back was crushed. When he took it to the vet, he was told that the only choice was euthanasia. But instead of manning-up and putting the poor creature down, he "nobly" gives it a reprieve. How? By dumping it back on the street and occasionally feeding it fast food. The unfortunate dog is left to roam the streets, dragging its hindquarters till they are bald and probably raw, and no doubt shitting and pissing all over itself.
Anyone who's ever faced the decision to give their beloved pet a humane death, will no doubt find Shakey's actions repulsive and reprehensible. I mean, it's not like he took it in, and gave it a good home.
Ultimately, this felt like the bones of a good book buried under a ponderous pace, bland characterization, and most importantly, terrible editing.
Seriously, I think at least half this book's issues could have been resolved with a good contextual edit. At 567 pages with no scene breaks (very confusing), there is way more book here than story. It also had numerous copy edit issues.