Dystopian Coming of Age: Random Acts of Senseless Violence

random violence cvr

Title: Random Acts of Senseless Violence
Author: Jack Womack
Publisher: Grove Press
Keywords: Dystopia, coming of age, violence, end of the world as we know it. Trigger Warning (rape and violence)
Reasons: Read for the Drinks and Dystopia book club (this will be my first meet up with them. Excited!)

They’ve taken us to both places on vacation. I don’t like LA or Chicago. They’re horrible places & I’m glad they’re burning down.

This is just a taste of some of the dark humor in this book. And Lola, the protagonist isn’t this messed up. Well. At least not on page 10….

Let’s back up a bit.

Their Words

Lola Hart is an ordinary twelve-year-old girl. She comes from a comfortable family, attends an exclusive private school, loves her friends Lori and Katherine, teases her sister Boob. But in the increasingly troubled city where she lives (a near-future Manhattan) she is a dying breed. Riots, fire, TB outbreaks, roaming gangs, increasing inflation, political and civil unrest all threaten her way of life, as well as the very fabric of New York City.

In her diary, Lola chronicles the changes she and her family make as they attempt to adjust to a city, and a country, that is spinning out of control. Her mother is a teacher, but no one is hiring. Her father is a writer, but no one is buying his scripts. Hounded by creditors and forced to vacate their apartment and move to Harlem, her family, and her life, begins to dissolve. Increasingly estranged from her privileged school friends, Lola soon makes new ones: Iz, Jude, and Weezie – wise veterans of the street who know what must be done in order to survive and are more than willing to do it. And the metamorphosis of Lola Hart, who is surrounded by the new language and violence of the streets, begins.

The world as this society knows it, is going to hell. Diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS are running rampant and riots are everywhere and the norm. This is the environment which Lola is growing up in. Her family seems well-to-do. Her and her sister Boob (Cheryl. Lola’s nickname is Booz) go to an all girls school and her family tends to take them to Europe and out of the state for vacation yearly. This book takes place in a messed up world getting worse by the day, but what makes this book horrifying is that it’s from the point of view of Lola, who is a bit naive on what’s been going on. She watches the news and knows, but only when her situation changes and she and her family move to a rougher part of Manhattan does she really know. This is when she “falls from grace” I guess you can say. It’s so heart-wrenching to read this!  It’s the most messed up coming of age story ever! This is a girl who is finding herself and her sexuality (she definitely hates boys and her comments on them are hilarious) and has a good head on her shoulders, but her environment and situation change her. In this environment, and in Lola’s POV it’s almost logical what she does and I found myself rooting for her anyway despite a voice in my head saying, ‘No Lola, this is the way to the dark side. Oh noooes she’s totally in the dark side now’.

This is a disturbing coming of age story that really made me think of how our environment can shape us. Humans are so adaptable and this book made me think how far would I go to survive? Would I let the rage and injustice overwhelm me and bring my own justice to those who would do me and mine harm? Knowing myself, probably.

Other things of note: Some of the slang used between the gang that Lola ended up joining was pretty difficult to read. Here’s a conversation between the Death Angels before they lift a wallet from some guy on the subway:

Aimed to step?
B n Ts be packing flush today.
Mind when I pump and dime when we movin’.
Let’s.

what??

Verdict?

I loved this book. This book was published in the US in 1994 and just made me realize there is just waaaay too many good books out there. I would like to eventually go back and read Womack’s other works, but right now N.K. Jemisin’s Fifth Season is calling me~

To not end on a bleak note, here’s an uplifting quote I found in the book:

Everybody different Lo. Jude’s Jude and I’m me and you’re you however you are. That’s how it is that’s all so don’t let em break you for it. Long as there’s hearting there’s loving whoever’s heart’s involved.

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