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Book Review: Joyride by Anna Banks

joyrideIn Joyride, by Anna Banks, Carly and Arden find themselves falling for each other, against all odds. 16-year-old Carly Vega works the graveyard shift at a local gas station. She turns over all of her earnings to her older brother, Julio, as they work hard to pull together enough money to smuggle their parents and two young siblings across the border from Mexico. Arden is a seemingly carefree slacker and the son of the local sheriff, a well-known racist (and one of the most odious adults I’ve encountered in a YA book in a long time). The two come together after elderly (and often drunk) gas station regular Mr. Shackelford is held up at gunpoint outside of the store one night while Carly is working. The assailant? Arden—Shackelford’s great-nephew.


Like all things Arden does, he had his reasons—he just wanted to scare his uncle into no longer driving home drunk. Carly is not impressed by this reasoning, or Arden in general, though it’s clear he’s instantly smitten with her. He pursues her, but she doesn’t have time for his hijinks. She quite literally does not have time for him—she works a lot of hours at the gas station, goes to school (often on little to no sleep), and hopes her grades will earn her some scholarships. Her brother and her parents fail to see the importance of school; to them, the important thing is working as much as possible to save money to help reunite their family. Carly understands this, and certainly does her part, but she’s determined to do well in school and be the first person in her family to go to college.


Possibly against her better judgment, Carly begins hanging out with Arden and eventually realizes trying to talk herself out of her feelings for him is pointless. Arden proves to be far deeper than he appears, something Carly sees as she learns about his schizophrenic sister who committed suicide a year ago, his grieving and pill-addled mother, and his absolutely awful father. But Carly still feels the gulf between them is too wide—he just can’t understand why she needs to work so much… mostly because she doesn’t tell him about her family’s situation. The stakes are raised big time when Arden’s father catches them making out. He says a whole load of disgustingly racist and outrageous things and demands they stay away from each other. Meanwhile, Carly and Julio have earned enough to pay for their family to be smuggled out of Mexico ($60,000). But things don’t go as planned. Carly and Arden get arrested, the sheriff makes it clear that they are not allowed to ever acknowledge each other again, and a GIANT plot twist throws everything into total uncertainty and chaos. The drama, risks, and retribution amp up like mad and it’s hard to know what will happen or how things will end.


This story of opposite attracting is an important one. It is not often that we see close examinations of immigration or the lives of teens like Carly. The characters are well-drawn and exude personality. The family issues at play are complicated–-relationships teem with grief, expectation, disappointment, and tension. Readers will root for Arden and Carly, even as they face almost unimaginable (to many) obstacles and differences. Far deeper and more suspenseful than I expected just from the cover and the flap copy, I couldn’t put it down, especially once Banks ramped up the stakes around the time of the arrest. This is a great addition to all collections.


Readers who enjoy this and are looking for another book about immigration should also pick up Maria E. Andreu’s The Secret Side of Empty (Running Press Book Publishers, 2014).


ISBN-13: 9781250039613

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication date: 6/2/2015


  1. My new favorite book! It ropes you in on the first page and while an unimaginable situation this book can be relatable at times. Its definitely an emotional roller coaster. It has an amazing ending as well. The style of writing is creative and interesting. 10/10. Well done Anna Banks!

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