She Rides ShotgunShe Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
My rating: 5/5 cats
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He could have laughed at how fucked up life was. That soon as you found something to live for, you found something to die for too. But he guessed in the end it was a good trade.

it’s “take your daughter on the lam day”!

this book is damn good. ridiculously good. i knew it would be – i loved his book of stories, Love and Other Wounds: Stories, and there are so few short story collections i like in their entirety that when i find one, i know i’m gonna have to read everything that author ever writes.

this dude is definitely in the same echelon as Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell and Donald Ray Pollock when it comes to writing literary grit lit. some grit lit skimps on character in favor of action or relies too heavily on shock value, but harper has it all: sharp, economical prose, complex, memorable characters, and a plot that zips along with equal emphasis on the crime writing as the character development. there are even some references to events that occurred in Love and Other Wounds: Stories, which touch was so appreciated. (the fact that i remembered details of a book i read in 2014 means it was really, really good)

it’s about a man leaving prison after a five-year sentence who is anything but free: after pissing off the aryan steel gang inside, nate has a bounty his head, as well as on his ex-wife and their eleven-year-old daughter polly. when he finds his ex and her new husband have already been eliminated, his only goal is to protect polly, get her out of the gang’s not inconsiderable reach, before going back for revenge. he barely knows polly, but during their road trip together, they develop a very unusual father-daughter bond, cemented in self-defense training and criminal masterminding, and after polly’s intended drop-off point is compromised, nate takes her with him and they become a wonderfully steely team.

polly is definitely well-equipped for this life, although the stuffed bear she carries everywhere and uses as an extension of her persona makes her appear younger or less mentally competent than she is. there are times when she reads much older than eleven, but i think the text justifies this, and it only makes her more of a badass. View Spoiler »

She felt something strange, a thrumming in her muscles, a thrumming in her mind. It took her a second to find the word for what she felt. It was a word she hadn’t gotten to use for herself in a long time. The word was power.

nate, polly, and detective park are the main POV’s, although others pop in now and again to provide context or texture to the unfolding plot. it’s full of meth and torture and various shades of criminal behavior from both sides of the law, and it’s just a whammy of a book, despite being so short.

there’s nothing i do not love about this book, but the two standouts in the category of “bestest things” are detective park (i would love to read more of his adventures in law and order), and the relationship-arc between nate and polly and all the unconventional lessons in parenting.

Either you teach her how to take a punch or the world does.

write faster, jordan harper!

read my reviews on goodreads

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