JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
Hustle: Street Power
2 out of 5 stars
(01-19-2013: I decided to revise this book review and add examples from the book to support what I discussed in this book review because the author assumed I did not read the book but instead rated the book solely on punctuation errors. I added sentences from the book as examples of the flaws I point out. I added the hidden spoilers so both the author and readers, if they choose, can get a better idea of some of the aspects of this book that lead to the 2 star rating. This is not an attempt to be malicious. My intention is to be clear in my assessment and provide the author with constructive criticism.)
“Hustle: Street Power” is Jonathan Copeland’s debut novel. Although Elmo Davidson was heavy in the streets, he wanted nothing more than his only son, Nice, to be a productive citizen and live the straight and narrow. Death is par for the course in Elmo’s “profession”, and he was violently snatched away from Nice and Nice’s mother Cynthia. In an instant, Nice and Cynthia went from having access to anything their hearts desired to struggling to makes ends meet. This also meant that Nice, at the age of 17, had to take a job as a short order cook to help his mother foot the day-to-day costs of living.
Cynthia was brutally murdered, and Nice’s already stressful life was fractured in ways only his intellect and street smarts could barely hold together. Prior to his mother’s death, Nice was being courted by the current kingpin, Ghost. With both of Nice’s parents dead, Ghost’s invitation quickly became a viable option for survival and later revenge.
Through his best friend K, Nice was brought into the folds of Ghost’s drug empire. As it turns out, Ghost filled the vacuum left by Nice’s father five years earlier. Both Nice and Ghost have elaborate plans to use each other. A cat and mouse game ensued where each party attempts to use the other one for material gain.
After he gained Ghost’s respect, Nice set into motion his plan to take Ghost out of the drug game. He was helped by his best friend K, his girlfriend Nookie and his mother’s best friend Janice. Together, the made money by turning an old product into a new, “questionable” option for the people in their city.
I really liked the book cover for “Hustle: Street Power”, but…
Jonathan Copeland’s desire was to entertain, but the execution of “Hustle: Street Power” was seriously flawed. Past tense and present tense were used closely, sometimes within the same sentence.
For example: Nice continued on his way and makes it to the casual dining restaurant, BigTime Dining. (Continued is in past tense. Makes is in present tense.)
I was confused if things were happening or had happened. There were places where commas are used instead of periods, so some sentences are longer than what they should have been. This made for an awkward read.
For example: “Yeah cuz that’s where the bitches be at son, I gotta handle my business with my business,” K laughed, “Feel me?” (Three sentences. Three commas. One question mark.)
Punctuation was not the only thing that took down the quality of the reading experience of this book.
The narrator gave too many details. There are times where the narrator and the character’s dialogue tells the same thing, one after the other. In a situation like this, it is better to let the reader get the details from the dialogue. This way, the reader can actively form the story in his or her head instead of being spoon-fed every little bit of the story by the narrator and then be told the same thing by the characters. Another problem with the narration was that it was inconsistent. One moment, the narration was expressed in standard English, which is expected. The next moment, the narrator used slang and a gossiping tone. This made the flow of “Hustle: Street Power” clumsy.
The presentation of the dialogue had many editing issues also. The word “you”, for instance. Within two sentences, this word is spelled “y-o-u” and in other places “u”. This inconsistency was unnecessary because “y-o-u” sufficiently represents the the word “you” visually and phonetically.
For example: “What, and then u gonna fight the dude, huh? Or you want me to shoot him?” (Italics added by JoeyPinkney.com.)
Some of the plot twists didn’t make sense if they were played out in reality. There were a few times where I had to read and re-read a few passages to try to make sense of what happened. This made reading “Hustle: Street Power” difficult because I spent more time thinking about how things could not possibly have happened as opposed to being invested in the story’s progression. The end of this novel did not make sense in terms of what transpired between Nice, Ghost and K leading up to the grand finale. That was another let down.
The below spoilers speak about plot twists that were very confusing for me based on the words the author used to describe the individual scenes and/or dialogue.
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #1″]Right before Cynthia gets murdered, she gets dropped off at her house by her best friend, Janice. As Janice is pulling off, Lorraine pulls up. If Lorraine had slowly pulled up and been inconspicuous, I could see her not being detected. In this book, Lorraine suddenly “pulls up and jumps the curb, leaving tire tracks in the yard”.
I wondered, “Why didn’t Janice notice a car suddenly speeding up and jumping the curb in front of the house she is pulling away from?” Even if she didn’t see it in her rear-view mirror, wouldn’t she have heard the sound of the car jumping the curb and spinning in the yard?
I can only assume that moments passed between the time Janice pulled off and Lorraine pulled up. It could have been written more clearly.[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #2″]Nice, K and Nookie go to the mall. Nookie’s abusive boyfriend, Fresh, is there. Nice, K and Fresh start talking trash. Fresh swings. Nice counters. Fresh falls on the ground. Nice beats him to a pulp.
After the beat down, Nice, K and Nookie walk out the mall. As K goes to get his car, Nookie and K walk slowly. Nookie thanks Nice for defending her honor. Nice lets her know that she is “his woman” now. Nookie beams with joy. K tells them to hurry up and get in the car.
I was confused at a few things in that scenario. A fight in any mall I’ve been in would be seen by a bunch of people. Even if the mall was a ghost town, a fight would be seen by at least one employee if not a security guard or security camera. Even if they were able to fight before being seen, the last thing a person would do after knocking somebody’s teeth out would be to walk slowly to the car.
Run! Run to the car! Get out of there! Do the boyfriend-girlfriend stuff later! I was confused because there wasn’t a sense of urgency to leave the premises.[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #3″]When Nice, K and Nookie get back to Nice’s house, they find Nice’s decapitated mother on a couch on the back porch. Nice goes hysterical and grabs his mother. K directs Nookie to comfort Nice as he walks outside to call the police. Nookie complies and puts her arm around Nice. When she asks Nice if there is anything she can do for him, he tells her to tell K to call Janice about the murder.
I was totally confused with this scene.
Most people, male or female, would start freaking out at the sight of all of the blood that was described to be all over the place. I understood Nice going further into the house because the only two people who live there is him and his mother. I could understand K following Nice through the house because Nice is his close friend and K has respect for Nice’s mother.
I could not understand how Nookie could calmly walk through a house streaked with blood, walk up on a person she just got into a relationship with (that is a few hours old, at best) who is holding his headless mother. To take it a step further, I could not understand how she could be directed to sit next to him as he holds his headless mother. Not only does she calmly sit by him, asking is there anything she can do while he cradles his headless mother, Nookie wraps her arm around him. How is it possible that they’re not sitting in pools of blood?
Most people would scream, puke or both after being caught off guard by a grisly murder scene. All things being equal, most people wouldn’t want to be in the house of a person who had been decapitated. To sit down and comfort a person who is presumably having a mental breakdown while holding his headless mother just seems extremely far-fetched. [/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #4″]The police chief arrives at the murder scene and walks up to Nookie and K. He asks them which one of them is the son of the deceased mother.
Again, I’m confused. From my understanding, the police chief only comes out when there is a high-profile case in the making that requires his direct attention. As far as the information given about Nice and Cynthia, they were average citizens in terms of their importance to the community-at-large. Plus, the police chief’s presence didn’t foreshadow anything that happened later in “Hustle: Street Power”.
The police chief’s question made it seem like he couldn’t tell whether or not Nookie was a male or female. This confused me because she was described as being voluptuous earlier in the story. Most men can spot feminine curves a mile away.
The only thing I could figure was that the police chief was going out of his way to be obnoxious. It seemed more logical that the police chief would have asked one of his subordinates if K was the son, or the police chief would have asked K if he was the son. To walk up to a lanky young man and a curvy young woman and ask them which one of them is the son makes absolutely no sense.[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #5″]As Janice and Nice pull up to her house after church, K pulls up to get Nice. Nice hops in the car with K. Shortly afterwards, K pulls up to another house. When Nice asks about their location, K lets him know that Nookie told K to bring him to her house.
K seems to always conveniently be around Nice to take him places, but Nice never seems suspicious.
In roughly 24 hours, Nice viciously beats up a young man, gains a girlfriend in the process, loses his mother by murder, goes to church and gets dropped off at his new girlfriend’s house.[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #6″]Nice knocks on the door, and Nookie answers dressed seductively. They exchange pleasantries full of double-entendres and outright compliments like: “Damn Nookie, you look good as hell. I mean, not to be rude, but good god if yo ass is not phat as a mug.”
Nookie lets Nice know that she had him brought to her house so she could figure out why he fought for her at the mall. She also wanted to know why he didn’t approach her about a relationship between them much earlier.
After he explains his position, Nice states that everything happens for a reason. Nookie counters by asking if his mother’s murder happened for a reason.
Once again, I am confused. Instead of being all horny when she opened the door, she should have initiated the conversation with, “I’m sorry for your mother’s death.” She simply lets him into the house and starts asking about their less-than-36-hours-old relationship and throws his mother’s murder into the conversation in frustration. Instead of going off on her, Nice tells her that she went too far. She goes into the kitchen to check the food and calls him to come eat.
I’m thinking to myself, “Didn’t his mother just get killed?”
Only after getting into the kitchen with Nookie, he finally asks the million dollar question: “Where are your parents?”[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #7″]Nookie explains that she told her parents about what happened and they gave her the house to entertain Nice.
Let me get this right. I’m going to let my 17-year-old daughter with the body of a 25-year-old woman be in the house with a 17-year-old boy because his mother got her head cut off the day before?[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #8″]The parents come home and announce themselves just after Nookie and Nice start kissing in the kitchen. They didn’t eat any of the food by way of the narrator or dialogue, but they start cleaning up the dishes.
Here’s the basic conversation:
Dad: “We’re home!”
Nookie: “We’re in the kitchen!”
Dad: “So this is the boy whose mother was murdered?”
Nice: “Yes, sir. My name is Nice. Glad to meet you.”
And so on and so forth…
My point is that this scenario doesn’t seem realistic for a young man who held his headless mother’s body the day before. Why is he there? Why is she asking him about their brand new relationship? Why are her parents so cool with letting their daughter spend time alone with a boy whose mother was a victim of murder less 48 hours ago? Why is K pulling up just as they go out on the front porch to talk?[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #9″]K pops up as Janice is leaving her house to go to work. He tells her he’s going back to school. She says, “Good decision. Well, uh, the best decision you ever gonna make besides the drugs you’re selling boy.”
Excuse me? Did Janice just tell K that his decision to go back to school is as good as the decision to sell drugs? If she meant something different, shouldn’t the words be different?[/spoiler]
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler #10″]Nice devises a plan to shut Ghost out of the drug business: Take marijuana, break it down, cook it into chocolate bars and sell the bars for $2 each. K, Nookie and even Janice think it’s a great idea and help him make and sell the marijuana laced candy bars on the streets and in the school Nice, Nookie and K attend.
Problem: Selling marijuana in most places in the United States is illegal regardless of whether or not it’s cooked into chocolate. This is especially true for sales by and to people under 18.
Problem: After thousands are sold, somebody is going to recognize that eating these $2 candy bars gives them a marijuana buzz and tell police.
Problem: Selling candy bars laced with marijuana can be a huge disaster if the wrong person gets intoxicated by it and has a bad reaction.
Problem: Just because you have a rule against selling to children, you still risk someone sharing their marijuana-laced candy bar with a child unknowingly.
Problem: The very drug lord that you are trying to squeeze out of business probably sells more than just marijuana. Those other drugs are probably more profitable, so you might not be able to squeeze him out of the drug trade by selling marijuana-laced candy bars.
Problem: Janice, who regularly attends church, is supposed to be protecting Nice from selling drugs and going the way of his father. Cynthia warned against that earlier in the book. Why is Janice not only allowing kids to make marijuana candy bars in her kitchen but also sitting in the middle of the kitchen high from ingesting a candy bar she knows has marijuana in it?[/spoiler]
“Hustle: Street Power” could have been a great story but lost momentum with confusing dialogue, overly detailed narration, confusing verb-tense changes and situations that were not realistic. An editor or a group of beta readers would have solved a lot of the little problems that when added together made Jonathan Copeland’s “Hustle: Street Power” come up short.