At seventeen, Carly Vega has quite a bit of responsibility on her shoulders. Most girls her age are going to school during the week, hanging out with friends after the bell and partying on the weekends. But not Carly. Carly works the midnight shift at a dumpy convenience store a ways down from the trailer she lives in with her brother, does her calculus while she sits at the cash register and scrapes every single cent she earns from the miserable job together and gives it to her brother, who then in turns sends it to Mexico, so that they can bring their parents across the US border. After her parents were deported a few years ago, Carly and her brother, Julio, have been working their asses off to pile up enough money to hire the best smuggler they can – a man named El Libertador at a steep $50,000 – and, since nothing means more to Carly than family, she had quietly worked away at this goal with nary a complaint. At least until she meets Arden Moss.
Arden Moss is a dare-devil and prankster with an infectious grin and is able to seduce the pants off of just about any girl in his high school that he wants. And, seeing as he is the son of the county sheriff, he usually gets away with any fun hijinks he might have with a simple slap on the wrist. But, after a fateful night, he meets Carly Vega and his life is suddenly turned topsy-turvy. Unlike most girls, he can’t charm Carly. He can’t convince her to go out with him. He can’t even figure out why she won’t loosen up, have a little fun, and enjoy life. But after learning that Carly is having financial troubles, Arden tries his best to get her a new job, even offering to drive her the long distance instead of having her ride her bike. It’s during this tentative new friendship that they learn more about each other and, eventually, Arden even talks Carly into being his “partner in crime” in a few of his prank sessions. As the weeks pass, they grow closer and closer and eventually, they learn of the dark secrets they are keeping from each other and that threaten to tear them apart….
Over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to attend an AWESOME author signing with Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse), Katie Finn (Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend), Lindsay Smith (Sekret), and Anna Banks (Of Poseidon). At the time, I was mostly stoked for meeting Katie Finn, as I had gotten to read an ARC of Broken Hearts, but I was pretty happy to meet three new authors as well. During the Q+A, someone asked Anna Banks how she had gotten the idea for her new book, Joyride. And she told us an epic story of how she stole her parents’ car as a kid, drove it across state lines, and ended up unwittingly committing grand theft auto. It was freakin’ hiliarious. So, I decided then and there to pick up Joyride when it was finally published and, luckily for me, I was able to get my hand on an ARC!
Unfortunately, this stand-alone book just didn’t meet my expectations. Which is sad, seeing as I had heard an awesome story related to the book and I wanted to like it, as it was my first introduction to Anna Banks. And while the story line itself was compelling enough, I just couldn’t get invested enough in the characters to really care about their wishes and well-being. First of all, Carly and Arden were complete and utter morons. Carly is smart as a whip, but when it comes to common sense, she had zilch. And neither does Arden. Let’s take the first two chapters of the story here:
Arden’s Uncle Cletus likes to drive drunk. He’ll go down to the convenience store that Carly works at every night, already drunk off his rocker, and purchase more liquor. (First of all, I’m pretty sure someone who isn’t 18 (or even 21) isn’t allowed to work at a place that sells liquor, but that’s besides the point.) So what does Arden do about it? Tell a trusted family member or friend? No. Go and force his uncle to sit in the passenger seat while he drives him home and sleeps it off? No. The only obvious choice is to dress up as a thief, point a gun at his uncle, and try to take the truck away from him at gunpoint. Because, yeah, that’s not going to cause any red flags. And what does Carly do in response? Duck behind the counter and call 911 like a normal person? Of course not, she grabs the gun they keep behind the counter and goes out and confronts the gunman without knowing how to work or fire a gun.
Eventually Carly figures out that Arden was the “robber” and that she and Cletus weren’t in any real danger and – surprise, surprise – she’s pissed at Arden for pointing a gun at her. And poor Arden is flummoxed as to why Carly doesn’t like him. -__- What the hell, man? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two-and-two together. Eventually, though, Arden redeems himself and helps her find a better job and they end up kinda falling for each other. It’s during the time in which they are falling for each other that Carly and her brother are finishing the last preparations to get their parents over the border and, during this time, Arden’s father – Sheriff Moss who is strictly against illegal immigrants – finds out what Carly and Julio are doing. And that his son is dating Carly.And this brings up the other big problem I had with the book: Sheriff Moss. Arden’s dad is just Satan, plain and simple. He’s mean as a snake, beats the hell out of Arden (sometimes with no reason), and neglects his wife. Why is he like this, you ask? Who knows. I was waiting the whole time I read through this book to figure out why he was such a terrible person and it was never brought up, not even once. A person just can’t be that mean for no reason at all. There needs to be some sort of character development but it just wasn’t addressed! I was screaming for a reason to find this character somewhat understandable, but was given none. I mean, why did his wife marry him if he was such a son of a bitch? Why did the county vote for him if he was such a scumbag? These are all legitimate questions that we have absolutely no answer to.
The scene where Sheriff Moss finds Carly in Arden’s bedroom, and thus discovers they’re dating for the first time, is another great example of top-notch common sense on Carly’s part. So, you’re dating the son of a guy who could have you arrested for trying to smuggle your parents across the border and what do you do? Well, first of all, I wouldn’t have gotten near Arden with a ten foot pole, especially if I wanted to stay under the radar, but Carly isn’t that smart. Did she run like hell away from the house when the sheriff threatened her? No. Did she try and reason with him, talk him down from his fury? No. The only OBVIOUS answer would be to pull a knife on him and force him to stop beating his son. So now, not only could she get arrested for smuggling, but for threatening a police officer. Nice going, Carly.I just… I was given no reason to care in this book. Carly, I think, could have been redeemable if she had a single cell of gray matter in her brain. She was one of the very few women of color MCs I’ve read recently. She was made out to be a smart, hard-working, no-nonsense girl and, if it had been done correctly, she could have been a heroine worth rooting for, but she just ended up being a love-struck idiot who chose herself over her family. And, speaking of her family, they weren’t very great people, either. Julio was – and I’m not even kidding – the best character in the book. And he got, maybe, ten pages of “screen time” all together. Her parents, who we only ever hear over the phone, hardly even care about their oldest two kids who are working their asses off to get them back to America. Whenever they call, the first thing they ask is how much money they made. No “how are you?” “How is school?” Just, “Where’s my money, work mule?” I mean, really?
Arden is a card-board cut out of the troubled-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype. Carly is a moron. Her parents are douchebags. Sheriff Moss is the devil for seemingly no reason. Arden’s mother is a pansy. And Cletus is a drunk who made millions doing I-wasn’t-given-a-reason-so-who-the-hell-cares. For God’s sake, Anna, please!!! GIVE ME A REASON TO CARE!So, yeah. I was expecting an adorable summery, YA book about an unseemly couple who somehow end up stealing a car together only to fall in love during the ride and ended up with… this. I was disappointed, to say the least, but – at the very least – I managed to finish it and, believe it or not, there was one twist that I actually didn’t see coming that made me care at least a little bit toward the ending. So, for that, I give it two 1/2 stars. I wish I had liked it better, and I’m not sure whether or not this will turn me off Anna Banks in the future. I guess we’ll see.