Set in the "mini-Jamaica" of the New York ghetto, Erick S. Gray's Nasty Girls is, in many ways, a stereotypical tale of gang warfare within the black community.
The plot essentially focuses on three girls
- or "bitches", as the author prefers to call them - Shy, Jade and Camille. Although the girls were not always close, the death of fifteen-year-old Shy's boyfriend, Raheem, cements their friendship. From this point on, the novel is told from the first-person viewpoint of
each of the three main characters.
Fast-forward six years. Shy has recovered somewhat from Raheem's death and has a new boyfriend, Roscoe, who, although still indulging in the traditional, again-stereotypical habit of drug dealing, he at least has enough respect for Shy not to deal from their shared apartment. Isn't young love grand?
While similar to her friend's situation, twenty-two-year-old Jade's predicament differs in several ways. While she's in love with her long-term (four years) partner, James, everyone else seems to be
aware of exactly what kind of man he really is. The first we hear of him, another girl claims to be sleeping with him, forcing Jade to, in her own words "*bleep* that bitch up." This doesn't seem to be a positive indication of the health of their relationship.
Camille, at twenty-three, is far more sorted than her "sistas". She owns her own place, unlike Shy and Jade, who rely on their boyfriends for support.
Having learned from others' mistakes, Camille doesn't rely on anyone else, not even Cream, a continual, though not constant, presence in her life.
All of the characters in the novel are quintessentially similar and rely heavily on stereotypes. They are little more than 2D cut-outs, which has an extremely negative effect on a novel like this
that relies on emotional attachment.
Having said that, the plot is somewhat intrigueing. The writer, judging from his grammar and vocabulary, would appear to be about fifteen years old.
Although this does make the book easy to read, the stilted writing style tends
to be irritating. If one were charitable, it could be believed that Gray is merely seeking to fully absorb the reader into the characters' world by writing colloquially. Unfortunately, this involves quite a stretch of the imagination. Characters continually repeat the same information to each other, something which may have
readers skimming pages.
The amount of sex in the novel is extravagant, and, to be perfectly honest, is a man's fantasy of what women want. Considering the book is told from the point of view of three women, this is
an extremely weak point. Gray's enthusiasm is appreciated, but it reads like a cheap, outdated porn film from the days when
such were solely marketed to men.
The awkward pacing jerks between fast and slow, meaning that, during the more emotional scenes, the reader has little time to fully empathize with the characters, a task that wouldn't be easy even without this
By the end of the novel, Gray seems to have given up entirely. Loose ends are left untied as he steamrolls to the end, going for a cheap emotional punch which lacks impact due to its weak set-up. It's a pity, really, as, despite its many faults, the novel is surprisingly enjoyable. If you want to read a book in which every other word is "bitch", "nigga" or "motherf***er", this is probably a good choice. Otherwise, don't bother.