Dodgers is praised for being a brilliant criminal novel. With due respect to the genre, Dodgers is more. East might be a very young paid killer to be, the novel deals with his emotional growth. That he has been given orders to go and kill someone is a mere detail.
East is a typical example of a kid growing up in an environment, a poor and rather criminal area somewhere in Los Angeles, that offers him only one way out: up in the criminal world. His addicted mother does not care that her son is being groomed by a drug lord, that is merely part of their life. School hardly matters, knowing the right person does.
East is told to shoot a judge who lives at a few days ride to the east. The journey east serves two purposes: East gets to see a different America, he also gets to know himself. His companions (as young as East) are to help him kill the judge, the reader can also compare them to East: the smart college kid with a gambling addiction who will risk all just for a chance to gamble in Vegas, the trigger happy sociopath and the smart kid who has learnt to use his mind in order to survive life in the drug gangs.
East turns out to be a steadfast and loyal person, he is the one to be trusted, the one who will complete the task whichever way. Whether he acknowledges and appreciates his own qualities is doubtful. Other people do see him for what he is and rate him high for it. Slowly but surely the journey and everything that happens makes East look differently at himself and at his future. The assignment which places him out of his comfort zone turns out to be his chance to decide on his future.
Beverly introduces his readers to a young boy growing up in a harsh world. He has to watch his mother go under, he tries to survive by doing what he knows best. I was moved by his search for a different future, and by the fact that somewhere in this harsh world some people do want to make things right for him. Beverly has written a beautiful novel which happens to have drug related crime as its setting, Dodgers however is about the search for oneself. I loved it.