Side Hustle by A.J. Lape has the confusing subtitle “Season 1, Episode 1.” I am reading a book on Kindle wondering how this would play out as a television series. Throughout the reading experience, I imagine who might play Darcy. Her physical descriptions of the creepy people she met were well done and provoked instant images of eccentric, crazy, weird, and perverted characters. As an example: “I knocked on his door with my elbow, dodging raindrops the size of butterflies. After a six-beat, Packer creaked his door wide, clad in pink women’s underwear and wearing a neon-green wig that hit him at the thigh. Packer was tall and thin with a mesh infinity scarf wound around his neck and an overbite that looked Cro-Magnon. Flipping his hair around like Cher, he flashed me a hairy butt cheek complements of a G-string that was along the scale of a shoe string. In Cincinnati, he would’ve been dragged in for public indecency. In LA, it was par for the course.” (Kindle locations 52-56).
This is an example of Lape’s writing style as the author colorfully describes only one of the many, many characters Darcy will encounter. She is trying to lead an independent, self-financed existence on the earnings of a pizza delivery driver in Los Angeles. As a former resident of San Francisco, I cannot imagine how this could be done in the even more expensive environment that is Los Angeles. Fortunately, she didn’t have to pay rent, a major expense. She had been offered a room in the home of Detective Lincoln Taylor and his family. Lincoln, the father of her boyfriend, had an eight-room two-story home with views of a canyon in a gated community. A successful son and daughter had given the home (price: eight figures) to Lincoln as a gift. Darcy had offered to pay rent, an offer that Lincoln and wife Alexandra refused. After all, she was to marry their son, a student away at college who had won the Heisman trophy only once although he had been nominated three times. Are we in the realm of fantasy yet?
A lot of suspension of disbelief is required when reading this story. Why is Darcy working as a pizza delivery driver? She is waiting to go to the police academy. In California, graduates of a police academy must be twenty-one years of age to carry a gun. Darcy was waiting out the time so that she could meet the requirement. She wanted to be a cop and advance to detective as soon as possible so she could work alongside Lincoln. In an earlier series describing Darcy in high school, Darcy had several adventures involving dead bodies, kidnappings, and stabbings. When Darcy delivered pizza to a dead customer who was missing half his face due to a bullet wound, Darcy decided to get a jump on the experience of solving a murder. She examined a crime scene, gathered evidence and interviewed witnesses and subjects, some of whom police had not discovered. Did I mention the element of fantasy?
This is an entertaining, light, surface level novel that should interest the YA crowd and has an interesting element for older readers. The use of slang and abbreviations that are up-to-date and modern might confuse older readers. Some terms even confuse Darcy who informs readers that she will have to consult the Urban Dictionary. If there are some readers who are unfamiliar with this dictionary, check it out online. It can be entertaining or shocking all by itself. Unfortunately, I have students who try to use it as a credible reference source. In the near past, that would be like reading The Onion for credible political and social news. In the present day, The Onion may be threatened with extinction by the true-to-life absurd reality show that is Washington D. C. At any rate, after this digression, I decided not to look up the terms unfamiliar to me. As with many entries in the Urban Dictionary, the terms have an incredibly short shelf life and are sufficiently clear in context.
For language alone, this is worth reading as a break from routine. The humor is sometimes forced but those who like puns and innuendo will appreciate the attempts. I am sure I will go back and read at least one of the “high school” books. When I get the time. I gave this novel four stars just because it is clever. I would not recommend it to my students of English as a foreign language. It would reinforce their belief in the credibility of the Urban Dictionary.