Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “You want a hero. Before we start, you should know—I’m not him. I’m not your hero. A hero is Prince charming, a firefighter, a cowboy. He’s handsome and perfect. He’s probably white. He has his shite together. None of that is me.”
Salvador (Sal) Rosa has just been released from prison after serving a five year stretch for boasting cars and other charges.Working two jobs, he’s trying to make a new life for himself and his younger brother. A member of the East Side Hollenbeck’s (ESHB), Sal knows he has to stay clear to make it but once your part of the gang, you’re in for life.
Vanessa Velasco may be from the neighborhood but she is slowly digging her way out with a good job, college, and a fiery attitude. A single mom whose husband died because of the ESHB, she has no use for the gangs or gangbangers. When Sal finds himself homeless when he’s kicked off a friend’s couch, Vanessa reluctantly offers him a bed
As Sal and Vanessa dance around their attraction to each other, ample opportunities arise for Sal and he finds himself suddenly learning how to make craft beer and liking it. But when the gang calls him back in, Sal has to make a choice and one that will keep him and everyone he loves alive because he now has something and someone to live for.
Thirsty is my first book by Mia Hopkins but not my last. Bold and unapologetic, Hopkins takes readers deep into a gang infested barrio and introduces us to a young man whose life was predestined but whose need for change has him fighting against the only world he’s ever known. Well written with honest descriptions, vibrant characters, and an impacting narrative, Hopkins captures her protagonist’s thoughts and emotions perfectly while building a thought-provoking base on which to showcase them. Though touted primarily as a romance, there is much more at work here. The romance is but a solitary element in this story about family, obligations, second chances and redemption. The focus on two people who are trying to move beyond choices they have made and learn to trust as they enter into a new chapter in their lives.
Hopkins characterization is exceptional. Each character she has built is a three dimensional experience in their dialogue and and actions. Their frank candor holds no secrets as everyone tells you exactly what they think. Sal is brutally honest though it is tempered depending on whom he is speaking too. The drama and angst of the various relationships Sal has with others are realistic and justified. Layered and complicated, Hopkins digs deep beneath the stereotypes to slowly re-image this man. He makes no apologies for his past or present. He is a gangbanger. His gang affiliation is what sent him to prison. He was born into the life and now faces the uphill battle of trying to survive beyond it. We watch as Sal is forced to see himself through the eyes of others; having to prove he is more than just a gangbanger and a convicted felon.
Hopkins addresses many topics throughout the story, weaving them within the narrative. She talks about the gang culture and it’s allure, showing us the emotional, mental, and physical needs it can fill and the ramifications of trying to break free from it. It works its way into the romance as they all go hand in hand with helping to explain how Sal views him as individual and as a potential boyfriend/lover. The romance itself is hot and heavy; very sexually explicit with heavy erotic flavor. This couple is free in and out of bed with nothing off limits. Their age and past experiences played a heavy part in that freedom.
Vanessa is one tough cookie who was on the fast track to college when she was waylaid by a pregnancy, marriage and widowhood all by age 18. She worked hard to make a life for herself and her daughter and refuses to let anyone destroy it. I appreciated the fact that Vanessa’s deceased husband wasn’t made a villain to justify being with Sal.She was able to love them both with no excuses.
Various people are introduced who all effect Sal in some form or fashion. Vanessa, her daughter and grandmother become a pseudo family for Sal and show him that despite his past actions, the neighborhood looks out for its own. His bosses who want to profit off his gang affiliation, the gang who demand his allegiance, and the the geeky hipster who sees him more than a gangbanger and offers him a whole new world. Various subplots intertwine with the main plot, adding depth and offering clues for what’s to come.
The ending resolves the main conflict and clears the way for Sal and Vanessa’s future but leaves us with nothing concrete. Revelations are made towards the end that changes everything I for one can’t wait to see what Hopkins has in store for Sal’s brother-Eddie.