Review: Joyride by Anna Banks

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Title: Joyride
Author: Anna Banks
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Published: June 2015
Source: received for review from publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

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.

I liked this a lot! There were some odd sentences to be found in the narrative, there was the infamous odd shift from 3rd person to first for different characters, the "prank" angle seemed like a flimsy excuse to give the characters a reason to hang out...

But Banks sells this story and these characters. It helps that the light side of the plot is balanced by the darker aspects for both kids. Carly (our first person narrator) struggles with a lot of issues for such a short boook - some that internal: feeling successful, valued, etc., and some of it external: familial, society. Arden (our third-person narrator) has different issues complicating his life - some from the same type of source (family, society) but for different reasons and with different reactions. I wasn't as sold on how much they needed each other after a short time (he didn't even know her before school and 6 weeks in and they're inseparable?) but I liked how they both complemented and challenged one another as the story continued.

I liked that Joyride wasn't afraid to showcase the negative sides of an interracial relationship in a less than progressive area of the US. Just as it is important to show diversity in fiction, it's also important to be honest and real about what that can look like in real life. Not everyone will be okay with interracial dating, sadly, even in 2015. But I looooved that Banks's characters call out the racism and prejudices shown by others. Racism, ableism, and more rear their ugly heads for Carly and Arden to contend with as they try to have fun and live a little.

This is an entertaining contemporary that has depth, humor, and heart. Joyride could be considered escapist fun (ya contemporary! romance! pranks!) except that also manages to make a few pointed statements on culture and society. It felt and read realistically - from the silly to the serious, Anna Banks' contemporary offering is a good fit for fans of The Book of Broken Hearts or The Summer of Chasing Mermaids both by Sarah Ockler. 

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