I have had Mia Hopkins’ Thirsty and Trashed on my Kindle for a long time. Now that the third book in the series, Tanked, is coming out this month, I have finally read them. These books are fantastic and if you haven’t you should read them now.
Thirsty starts with Salvador “Ghost” Rojas standing on the street in his underwear. After serving a 5 year sentence for auto theft and car jacking, he’s couch surfing with a friend, but his friend has gotten them kicked out. Sal is on probation, trying to stay out of jail and save up money so that he can get an apartment when his brother, Eddie, is released from prison in a couple of months. Staying out of trouble is hard though because he is still a member of the East Side Hollenbeck gang. An older woman in the neighborhood gives him a deal – a cot in a garage in exchange for cheap rent and cleaning out the garage. His surprise landlady’s granddaughter is a woman he had a crush on in high school – Vanessa. Vanessa is a single mother with her own tragedy, and she doesn’t want whatever trouble gangbanger Ghost Rojas might bring.
Sal is the sole narrator in Thirsty, which I thought was a genius choice. Sal starts out in an isolated bubble. He works nights cleaning at two different places in Santa Monica and has a long public transportation commute. He’s mostly staying away from the gang, so not a lot of social interaction. He’s also dealing with anxiety. He doesn’t fit where he used to fit, but he doesn’t fit anywhere else really. He finds comfort in cleaning and working out. Through his boss, he meets Alan, who has opened a brewery and becomes fascinated with beer brewing. There are a lot of things right about Thirsty, but the magic is in Sal opening up to new things – learning how to make beer from a nerdy white guy, figuring out how to be good to Vanessa, and breaking open the pieces of himself he shut down to fit into the gang.
Trashed is every bit as good as Tanked. Eddie “Trouble” Rojas is having a harder time than Sal did finding and keeping employment. He responds before he thinks. While Sal had focused on building a stable future (even before he met Vanessa), Eddie is still puzzling out the past and fixated on what happened to their father. Before he knows her name, he and Carmen have explosive se, and then he obsesses about her for weeks. Eddie feels like he brings Carmen nothing but trouble, but he still wants to be around her. Having Eddie as the sole narrator means we have to trust her when she says she sees a good man inside Eddie, because we are privy to all the ways he thinks he is not. Hopkins skillfully lets us see what Carmen sees, without ever showing us Eddie through Carmen’s eyes.
I loved that these are not books about the love of a good woman fixing a broken man. Sal and Eddie are fumbling their way towards fixing themselves. Vanessa and Carmen become part of that, but they are not the reason. In contrast to their father, they want to be good people, not just good for one woman. The community, connection, and family they looked for in the gang as boys, they find in the lives they build after prison, with each other, with Vanessa and Carmen, and without leaving their roots.
I can’t believe I’ve sat on these books for so long. They are fantastic. I will be snapping Tanked up as soon as possible.