Monday, June 15, 2015

Joyride by Anna Banks

Joyride by Anna Banks
Release Date - June 2, 2015
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.
Opposites attracting, diversity and the promise of some laughs made me want to grab Anna Banks' newest novel. While there is plenty to love within these pages, there were also a few minor issues that kept this novel from truly resonating with me.

Carly's character is, without a doubt, the strongest element of the story. Anna Banks carefully constructs a character who deals with an insane amount of pressure from her family, and herself. She adeptly weaves in racism and makes both these storylines feel realistic. My heart ached for what Carly was putting herself through, while still recognizing the why behind her drive to do it. Both sides are given equal weight and you get to see the good and bad behind Carly's single minded obsession to get her parents back into the United States. The guilt she felt around doing anything for herself, and taking time to be a child was crushing. You wanted both scenarios for her - for her to help her family, and still get to have a childhood.

The racism found within these pages is also heartbreaking. There are stereotypes that Carly is judged upon and we're shown how inaccurate those assumptions are. Carly has a backbone and I delighted in every single instance where she stood up for herself. She had pride in who she was, and what she was doing for her family. Anna Banks also sneaks in judgement and how we view others into Arden's story. Carly misjudges Arden. She's heard the playboy rumours and accepts them at face value. Arden is more than the rumours, and perhaps not all of them are true. It's a positive message of not believing everything you hear, and getting to know someone before you make decisions about who they are. It's all done in a way that feels organic to the story, instead of being a 'lesson' that a story was built around.

The romance is very sweet, and actually read like a highschool relationship. Arden and Carly are both so well developed and fleshed out that the relationship works well between the characters. You see why each of them would be attracted to the other and why it would develop into something more. The pranks they pull are hilarious and silly but felt true to who the characters are. You can easily see them doing these things together, and that is what pulls the story together. It's the characters that allow any kind of connection and their relationships to each other.

The 'villain' of the story - Arden's racist father - starts out promising. There is some hint of motivation and depth to the character. Sadly, he becomes one dimensional and a caricature. It's the only real misstep in the story but it's one that I couldn't ignore. His actions drive a lot of the story (particularly later on) and the aftermath felt rushed and undeveloped. I would have liked to have the characters react more to what happened. To have the consequences of what happen resonate with them, rather than rushing through it. In other words, allowing the characters time to process, and breathe. This novel could have benefited with 25-50 more pages to flesh out the ending and it could have pulled it from a decent novel, to a fantastic one.

This is a story that touches many topics from racism, immigration, and everything in between. A story that went much deeper than I was anticipating, but didn't quite follow through on the potential that was there. An enjoyable read that I predict many will love more than I did and one that shows Anna Banks is comfortable in a variety of genres and her growth as an author.

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