Carly Vega doesn’t exactly lead the life of a typical teenager. She and her brother Julio live alone, trying to stay under the radar so that nobody realizes that their parents are nowhere to be found. The Vegas, illegal immigrants who led a productive and quiet life, were deported to Mexico, leaving their two oldest children alone. Now, Carly and Julio work themselves to exhaustion trying to earn enough money to smuggle them back into the country. Carly hasn’t really had a childhood, because every time she tries to do something for herself, she’s met with disapproving glares and lectures. That’s just the way her life is, until she meets Arden Moss, a former high school sports star who is dealing with his own familial issues. Together, they’ll learn to be true to themselves instead of blindly following their family’s orders.
I was actually fairly surprised at how much I liked this book. I honestly thought that it was going to be your typical young adult romance, in which boy and girl fall in love, boy and/or girl does something stupid, angst ensues, and then at the very last second, boy and girl fall back in love. That’s not what I got, not at all. In fact, Joyride is more a story of the impact of illegal immigration than anything else. The story of Carly’s family is devastating, and unfortunately all too common. With everything that you hear about in the news, it’s almost overwhelming to read about the struggles that she and her brother go through to earn enough money to smuggle their parents back, not even knowing whether it will work this time.
And then on the other side of the novel, we have Arden Moss. On the surface, Arden Moss is a former jock who used to have it all. Then he just threw it all away to turn into a slacker. But is that really what happened? Arden is still reeling from his sister Amber’s death, and he harbors a lot of resentment toward his father for failing to get her the help she needed for her mental illness. And this is another big issue tackled in this book. Mental illness is a real concern for a lot of people, and unfortunately, many people feel that if you pretend that it doesn’t exist, it’ll just go away. But that’s not the reality, and we see the consequences of that attitude in Amber’s suicide.
I was so surprised when I was reading this book that it wasn’t just another vapid teenage romance. It tackles big, important, relevant issues in a great way. I thought the writing was great, and actually really enjoyed that the narration changed from first person to third person, because I got a sense that we were inside Carly’s head, but kind of watching Arden from afar. I’ll be on the lookout for other books by Anna Banks, because this book was such a pleasant surprise.
For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m checking off #11: a book with a one-word title.