White Lines

Tracy Brown, Author . St. Martin's Griffin $14.95 (497p) ISBN 978-0-312-33648-6

Brown's epic (after Criminal Minded ) explores New York's ghettoes of the 1980s and '90s, following two characters caught up in the crack epidemic. Brooklynite Jada turns to the drug to numb the pain caused by an abusive stepfather and helpless mother. Her transformation from feisty teenager into crackhead is rapid and explicit, and Brown spares no wretched detail of Jada's descent. Meanwhile, on Staten Island, Born is growing from the impressionable son of a legendary "Original Gangster" into a hardcore hustler in his own right, fueled in part by the hurt over his father's weakness for the rock. When Born and a newly clean Jada cross paths as young adults, their common survivor spirit sparks a fairy tale love, and for a time, they live the blinged-out high life together. But one careless snort of coke at a party sends Jada spiraling again, and Born shuns her. It's not long before strung-out Jada hits bottom. Jada and Born reunite years later after escaping the drug world, but the overlong conclusion devolves into redundancy as the lessons learned pile up. As ugly as their actions can be, Brown's characters are sympathetically drawn, and the Goodfellas -like take on the gangster life is eye-opening. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/27/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
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