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Chain Gang All-stars

Recently made a National Book Award longlister (like the Oscars for book nerds for those who don’t know), Chain-Gang-All-Stars is sure to start making the rounds again, and deservedly so.

In Americas increasingly profitable private prison industry, convicted inmates are allowed to enroll in a program called CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment. They fight like gladiators to earn one thing: their freedom. We follow Loretta Thurwar and Hamara Stacker, better known as Hurricane Staxxx who are the stars of the “show.”

I will admit I was a bit frustrated at first with this novel because I felt like it was almost overly detailed. It starts off with a lot of world building. There are chapters dedicated to side characters that range from very important to never mentioned again. To be frank, I think I was expecting something a bit more action packed. The fact that it wasn’t maybe led to my deflation but I’m ashamed to say that probably says more about me than it does about the novel. Was I expecting more violence and bloodshed in a novel about this country’s prison industrial complex so I was entertained? YIKES VIV. Once I recognized that and let go of those expectations I was able to find my footing. And once I was in, I was IN.

And really the ending had my jaw to the floor. I had to read it three times to make sure I understood it because I was simply so shocked. It is one I turn over in my head from time to time, it haunts me. It was like the end of season one game of thrones with Ned (IYKYK). But there will be no season 2! Sheesh. Guess I will always wonder what next? It’s a bold ending and it makes sense.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

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May 2023 Wrap Up<br />
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