The Divine Boys

Amazon Crossing. Jul. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781542003735. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781542043120. $14.95. F
Five white-collar Colombian buddies (“the divine boys”) form the Tutti Fruttis gang and vow to stay connected after graduating from prep school. When member Muñeco rapes and strangles a seven-year-old girl from the slums, the other members must decide between whether to stick together or turn him in to the police. The bonds of loyalty win out, as a member’s perfidious girlfriend snitches instead. Based on a real incident and set in modern-day Bogotá, the novel is constructed like a pyramid or classic tragedy, with the crucial middle chapter describing the crime; the preceding and succeeding chapters focus on each gang member as one, named Hobbit, narrates their involvement in the crime. Each of the male characters is known by several alternative nicknames, yet there is little individuality to distinguish them; even the victim is known only as Girl-girl.
VERDICT Although Restrepo (Delirium) gives this award-winning novel an effective structure and flowing text, the despicable characters and violent crime are major turnoffs. Heinous though the murder is, the author elicits little pity for the victim and offers no apology or explanation on the perpetrator’s behalf. Appealing to those readers for whom sensationalism and contemptible characters are standard entertainment.

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