Boss by Jennifer Paige

Reviewed by Timea Barbaras

Boss“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” Is the opening line of the Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”, but it is also fitting for this book. “Boss” unfolds in the micro universe of New York’s projects and describes its strong gravitational pull over people.

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Jennifer Paige introduces the reader to several characters whom – like planets – are caught up in the gravitational pull of the projects. Only the light of this sun is rather dark and toxic, so people either inhale its toxicity in order to thrive in that environment, or struggle to break free. The main characters of this book fall into the second group, but whether their attempts were successful or not, remains for you to discover.

This debut novel is gritty and down to earth. It should be noted that this book is quite explicit, both in themes and language. While this undoubtedly gives the story more credibility, it is not a book for all ages. Actually, the story starts with hope in the air as the first black president is elected, but as the pages go by, it soon becomes visible that this does not bring on any change to life in the projects. People still have to fight against poverty, drugs, murders in order to escape and make a better life for themselves.

It is always refreshing to read a book dominated by female characters, all the more so if they are flawed. The women of Jennifer Paige are strong willed, determined, outspoken, sometimes vulgar but they have an unmistakable air of authenticity. The book is split in two and each part follows a different female character. While they have their differences their will to lead a better life ties their stories together, not to mention their shared interest in a man. The first character to come before us is Miah, who stays a strong presence throughout the book. Also, there are quite a few chapters narrated by her, which gives the reader a more personal view of the events. The other main character turns out to be the author herself and the story of her “Boss”. Whether her book will be as successful as she foresees it remains to be seen, and for you to decide.

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