JoyrideJoyride by Anna Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was wonderful. I have to say I wasn’t expecting all that much. I found The Syrena Legacy books to be just okay and didn’t really understand why the third one was written in the first place. But Anna Banks is from my hometown and she went to my high school, so I will always be super excited to read her latest release.

The book takes place in Florida. The town is never specifically mentioned, but it’s obviously a mix of Niceville and the surrounding areas (where the author is from). It was super weird to read about the Goodwill, high school, the skate park (which I live really close to and drive by several times a day!), the local mall, and a popular restaurant described. It was super cool though and almost made the book even more real to me because I could truly see what the author did when she was writing it. Very, very cool.

This isn’t your typical high school romance. It delves deeper than that. Carly is the daughter of illegal immigrants who were deported, leaving her to live with her older brother, Julio. Both children work tirelessly to earn enough money to smuggle their parents and 2 siblings they have never met back over the border. Since she is always working the graveyard shift at a convenience store or studying (so she can get a scholarship) Carly has pretty much been robbed of a childhood. By chance, she meets Arden, a popular attractive schoolmate with issues and secrets of his own, and they become reluctant friends.

I adored this book. I loved how Arden slowly convinced Carly to be his friend and how they very slowly and reluctantly fell in love. The supporting characters were lovely- especially Uncle Cletus/Mr. Shackleford. It was super refreshing to read about a young romance where the characters had real issues that aren’t usually written about. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book about immigration like this before. I loved how Carly struggled to balance her new desire to enjoy and live her own life with her need to support her family and live up to their expectations.

The book was also really unpredictable. I was surprised, multiple times, by the direction it took. I caught myself saying, “No way!” out loud several times while reading. I loved it!

It was so hard not to hate Julio and the rest of Carlotta’s family for the pressure they put on her and the way she was treated, but I did- I hated them. A lot. It was hard, I liked Carly so much that I wanted to like her family. I wanted to be able to see past all their faults and be like they love her. They just want everyone to be together. Unfortunately, as the story progressed, it became more and more clear that they were taking advantage and soon Carly’s only option would be to abandon ship. It’s like when you have a friend with a husband that’s kind of crap, but used to be good to her. They have small children so you want to see it work out, but at some point it’s just too toxic. She’s got to leave him, because even though it’s going to suck and be super sad, it’ll be better for her in the end. Carly’s family situation was truly tragic. She had no quick solutions or really any way to solve the problem. All options were terrible options. No way to fix anything without a lot of heartbreak on the way. Banks did an incredible job bringing this to life. My heart hurt so badly for Carly during any interactions with her family members or when she was being sacrificial for their benefit. I wanted to scoop her up and make it better, but really, there was no way to do so. I am not a wizard.

Every once in a while there was a line or two in this book that made me stop reading, take a deep breath, and say wow. Every once in a while Banks truly blew my mind with the words she wrote.

Also: Arden, what a babe.

Two complaints:
1) I didn’t feel like I ever got a very clear picture of what the characters looked like. Arden has green eyes and Carly’s hair is black, but I could never fully picture them other than that. I wish there had been more descriptive cues so I wouldn’t have had to fill in the blanks myself.
2) The POV switch was painful. Why was Carly’s perspective first person and Arden’s third? Horrible. I hated this. The entire books should have been written in first person. The switch was so awkward. With every switch, I was taken out of the story and had to readjust to get back into it. I cannot stress enough how terrible this switch back and forth was.

Anna, I know you go to Barnes and Noble in Destin and sign copies of books there. I’ll be on the lookout for a signed hardback copy of Joyride on June 2nd because this book is superb.

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