Break Yo Self, by Jason Law, is a gritty, fast paced urban fiction (often called Street Lit) novel, that is filled with raw realism in its depiction of thug and street life. The title itself “Break Yo Self,” is a slang term warning someone to prepare to be robbed or shot and is usually accompanied by threatening someone with a knife or gun. It can also be taken to mean give up everything of value in your possession, as in break the bank.
There certainly is a lot of possessions being passed around this story. Cash, guns, drugs, the four friends at the center of the novel kick things off with a robbery and from the reader is drawn into a world of dope houses, kidnappings and murders.
Let’s be clear about something right off the bat. There are no antagonists or protagonists in this book. No one’s hands are clean, no one is truly innocent, everyone is looking for ways to make fast money and stay ahead of everyone else. Lies are told, oaths are given and broken, and lives are taken at the slightest provocation. This is a novel of the streets, it isn’t designed to be pretty. There is no HEA for any of these characters, in fact, many readers might feel that they get what they deserve in the end while others will just shake their heads, desensitized to the violence.
The writer never tries to sugar coat his character’s actions, he never tries to justify them, he simply tells their story and allows the reader to decide if their choices led them to the ending they deserved. There are many who might feel that Urban fiction glorifies violence and spreads hate, but in Break Yo Self, Jason Law’s writing is like watching a movie playing out. These guys are on a mission, that is their single minded focus. There is no glory in what they do, nor is there any celebration. All they care about when they are through is the money.
The pacing of this novel was fast and filled with action. These are characters that are constantly thinking of their next score, constantly trying to fill the time between it with something to remind them that they are alive. Dice, drugs, football, women, Mr. Law takes us into their neighborhood and shows the mundane as well as the violence.
For those who are a fan of Street Lit, check this book out, and for those who aren’t, keep an open mind, you never know when you might like something until you try it.
I can’t award this novel any dancing hamsters. It’s too raw for cuteness like that. So I’m giving out my first Gangsta Hamsta award. Or in this case, 4 of them.