A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.
It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.
Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber’s mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.
All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.
This book is like Rocky Road ice cream for me. I’m jammin’ out on the sweet, sweet chocolate, tolerating the marshmallows… and then along comes the almonds to throw me into a funk. Do I spit out the almonds but otherwise continue to enjoy the ice cream as a whole, or do I toss it all aside as a lost cause and seek out more chocolatey pastures?
Joyride is the story of Carly Vega, a pragmatic, 16-year-old Mexican-American girl who spends all of her waking hours either going to school or working dead end jobs to save up money to sneak her parents and younger siblings into the country. It is also the story of Arden Moss, local golden boy and son of Sheriff Moss, the biggest, baddest racist in all of Houghlin County. After a misunderstanding with not one but two shotguns, Arden decides that quiet but fiery Carly is the perfect partner to help him pull off pranks around town. Carly, despite her wish to stay as unnoticed as possible, agrees.
At first, this story was shiptastic for me. Arden is privileged and clueless, but he was also thoughtful and loyal. At one point, he accidentally steals Carly’s bike, and though he knew nothing about her, he treated her property like gold until he could return it to her. Carly, on the other hand, puts up with zero crap, and I cheered when she flipped Arden’s tray into his lap after a particularly poor encounter. Carly gets to teach Arden about responsibility, Arden gets to teach Carly how to have fun and how to stand up to her well-meaning older brother Julio, bada bing bada boom, the loveboat is about to set sail. They also get some help from their one ally, Arden’s Uncle Cletus, who is possibly the sweetest man in the world.
The two kids also have some rough challenges in the form of their own families. Carly’s parents and brother think only family is important, so Carly should drop school to pick up more hours. Carly is expected to turn over all her wages in order to pay El Libertador to smuggle her family over the border. It’s a rough spot to be in. Arden, on the other hand, has to deal with his father, a hardcore racist and abusive jerk who uses his position as sheriff to hide behind the twisted cop loyalty known as “the blue wall of silence.” Arden blames his father for his sister Amber’s death, his mother’s dependence on drugs, and a bunch of other stuff, and the man totally deserves it. The plot doesn’t tiptoe around how cops rely on their loyalty to each other to shield themselves and their family members from just punishment, and it’s absolutely disgusting.
However, every time I got comfortable in the story, an almond jarred me loose. Sometimes it was little things like Arden describing Carly’s eyes in food terms or the fact that Arden’s POV was 3rd person and Carly’s was 1st. Sometimes it was things Carly did that didn’t make sense, like how she talked about how “Americans” do this or that, when she herself is American also, or how Arden’s snarky “You didn’t kill her” response to Carly’s apology for her sister’s death made her like him more. (Why? I HATE that kind of response.) Sometimes it was weird narrative choices like how on one page Julio successfully guilts Carly into keeping all of her shifts and then literally on the very next page she’s not only cut shifts but has also withheld earnings to buy a brand new laptop. ORMostly, though, my problem was with Arden. I don’t expect my teenage protagonists to be perfect, but I didn’t like how he wasn’t called out on some of the “romantic” junk he pulled. Scaring all the other boys away from Carly when they weren’t even friends much less DATING? Not okay. Constantly morphing into a jealous little rage monster? Not okay. Chastising himself for rearranging his schedule for a girl, like being considerate is a bad thing, because ewwww girls? Not okay. TELLING CARLY THAT “YOU’RE MY CURE?” NOT OKAY!
Honestly, this story could have been so good, and parts were genuinely enjoyable. But between the strange narrative choices and the nauseating romantic decisions, I’m not sure I can trust this author again.
Points Added For: Some shippy moments, Uncle Cletus, Carly’s strength.
Points Subtracted For: Weird narrative decisions, unromantic “romantic” moments, no one actually gets any counseling.
Good For Fans Of: Small-town romance, angsty romance, pranks.
Notes For Parents: Domestic abuse, racism, language, kissing.