Review: The Kings of Cool (Savages #1) by Don Winslow

The Kings of Cool, prequel to Don Winslow’s Savages, was a suspenseful crime thriller that kept me guessing. Rating: 5/5

*This is book #7/30 for my 2016 book challenge. You can take a look at the reading challenge here.

the kings of cool savages prequel don winslow book cover

In Savages, Don Winslow introduced Ben and Chon, twenty-something best friends who risk everything to save the girl they both love, O. Among the most celebrated thrillers in recent memory—and now a major motion picture directed by Academy Award–winning filmmaker Oliver Stone—Savages was picked as a best book of the year by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, Janet Maslin in The New York Times, and Sarah Weinman in the Los Angeles Times.

Now, in this high-octane prequel, Winslow reaches back in time to tell the story of how Ben, Chon, and O became the people they are. Spanning from 1960s Southern California to the recent past, The Kings of Cool is a breathtakingly original saga of family in all its forms—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends and lovers. As the trio at the center of the book does battle with a cabal of drug dealers and crooked cops, they come to learn that their future is inextricably linked with their parents’ history. A series of breakneck twists and turns puts the two generations on a collision course, culminating in a stunning showdown that will force Ben, Chon, and O to choose between their real families and their loyalty to one another.

This has been a year of new for me. Typically I stick to young adult books because I find them more interesting, but The Kings of Cool is the third adult book I’ve read this year, and I might have to rethink my anti-adult stance. Not only that, but The Kings of Cool is way out of my wheelhouse. Drugs, and crime, and hippies certainly aren’t my thing and this is definitely not a book I would ever have chosen for myself in normal situations. In fact, despite the movie version of Savages (The Kings of Cool being the prequel to that) starring big names like Blake Lively and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, I never even watched that. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and read it very quickly.

I won’t say that it’s all that original in terms of actual subject matter. Drug deals and big bosses and groups fighting over territory and money and shit. That seems pretty normal based on movies and tv shows that I’ve seen. I mean, I can’t speak from experience, but I did binge watch Breaking Bad in like, a week and a halfso I can say that it’s pretty standard. There were two main points of the story that made it so interesting – Don Winslow’s writing style, and the way that the characters were so interwoven.

So lets start with the writing style first. First, the story alternated between being set in 2005 (present day for this prequel) and a period of time between the 60s and 80s. Then it was written in a unique sort of prose. Not quite poetry, not quite an ordinary narrative. There were no chapters, and it was all kind of choppy – in a good way. Nothing was dragged out longer than it needed to be, which kept me interested. It was more like a stream of consciousness, and it skipped from person and place and event in a way similar to a soap opera.

One, I guess con, of the writing style was that every single character spoke pretty much the same way. I mean, what are the chances that every single person in a story has a brilliant quick wit and only one of them gives a single fuck? Slim chances. I didn’t care, though, because I liked the characters that way and it made them that much more interesting to me. So I guess it’s not that much of a con after all.

Now to avoid spoilers, as I like to do, I won’t go into how the characters are interwoven, but it was brilliant. Some of it was a tiny bit predictable, but the majority of it had me seriously gasping out loud I was so shocked. There were some crazy plot twists going on, and it was really interesting and well thought out how everything came together. Not only that, but they way the story flowed and went back and forth between present day and the past really helped to set everything up to keep the reader in suspense the entire time. Had it not been that way, I doubt I would have devoured the book as quickly as I did.

So here I am, having just read a book I never would have given a second glance, and now I’m looking up the best prices for Savages online so I can read the next one and then immediately rent the movie. Don Winslow has officially earned a new fan. Cheers, Don Winslow. Cheers.

Rating5 star book review

If you’re interested in reading my GoodReads updates from this book you can do so here. I must say, they’re quite entertaining. It will tell you exactly what I was thinking on certain pages.

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