There was a lot of buzz surrounding All Involved prior to me picking up my copy, and having gone on to read it in just a few sittings it is not hard to see why. The novel is inspired by the events of the 1992 LA Riots, an event which I had no prior knowledge of, so the subject matter intrigued me from the offset and I couldn’t wait to get involved myself! (Sorry)
The first thing I noticed was the structure of this novel. The riots took place over six days in April 1992 and All Involved is broken down into six daily parts. I thought this worked well as you can read a day at a time and take in the events of that 24 hour period. Each day is narrated by two or three characters and we see their accounts of the events as they unfold. You would think that with a total of seventeen points of view that some characters may become ‘lost’ or under developed but this was not the case. I found each character’s story to be as gripping and compelling as the last. From Ernesto – a taco truck worker, to Payasa – a gang member, to Gloria- a nurse.
All Involved: Slang for someone participating in gang activity (From the All Involved Glossary)
The story itself is of the chaos and violence that ensued during the six days of the riots. With the city and its emergency services pushed to the limit following the fallout of a notorious trial, gang members used the time as an opportunity to settle some old grudges. It is unflinching in its portrayal of the brutality and the scenes of violence are vividly described. I don’t often read violent scenes but in this case I was so gripped by the story that I couldn’t tear myself from the page. I was shocked but fascinated by the lives of the gang members, their stories, their relationships and how they interact with one and other. It is with characters that I feel this novel is at its most powerful. Gang members, the type of which in our everyday lives we only see through grainy CCTV images or police mug shots, have been given a voice through these pages. These characters have committed horrific acts of violence against their fellow man and yet Gattis has made them seem vulnerable, human. Beneath the violence there is humanity – someone’s child, sibling, friend.
This is a novel that I won’t forget in a hurry. I was shocked, moved and gripped by this book. It made me wince in parts and very nearly cry in others! With its violent content this is not a story for the faint hearted but if you can stomach the more gruesome scenes this is well worth a read. A bold, brutal, brilliant novel and I for one am excited to see what Ryan Gattis does next.