The first interesting point about Dodgers by Bill Beverly is its genre classification. It is often classed as crime fiction, some have called it a coming-of-age novel, while some have gone as far as classifying it under travel fiction. I am not convinced that it has enough crime to be crime fiction and it is no coming-of-age when the main protagonist is already living an adult life before he is even fifteen. The genre classification is largely irrelevant because Dodgers is a well-told and enjoyable work of fiction.
Told in the third-person narrative, Dodgers is the story of 15-year-old East, a foot soldier in an LA drug cartel. He supervises the kids who act as lookouts for a drug house. East is as measured and introspective as the prose of Bill Beverly is economical and concise. The premise of the story is that despite East’s best effort, the drug house he guards gets busted suddenly by the police. In the process of that raid, a young girl is shot dead and that death weighs East’s mind for the rest of the book. After the raid, and despite his culpability for the bust, his boss Fin sends East and three other teenagers (including East’s 13-year-old brother, TY) across the country to Wisconsin to murder a judge who is a witness in a case about to come to trial.
A road journey of four teenagers who can barely stand each other is where most of the action takes place. The vivid description of the countryside as East and his crew drive across the country while trying to be as inconspicuous as possible is a treat for adventure lovers. All through the journey, East remains contemplative, introspective and measured both in his speech, thoughts and actions. He struggles to understand what drives his brother TY, who is the designated hitman of the group. TY is a feral, trigger-happy 13-year-old who is everything his brother is not. As might be expected, the trip does not go as planned but through its derailment, East attempts to find redemption and begins to rebuild his life. East is a very interesting character who at the very end manages to disappoint all readers who had been rooting for his redemption.
Good read. Recommended.