Read this if you’re in the mood for: realistic contemporary YA, diversity, romance, character-driven novel
Summary: Who says opposites don't attract?
It's been several years since Carly Vega's parents were deported. Carly lives with her older brother, studies hard, and works the graveyard shift at a convenience store to earn enough to bring her parents back from Mexico.
Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He used to date popular blondes and have fun pranking with his older sister. But now all that's changed, and Arden needs a new accomplice. Especially one his father, the town sheriff, will disapprove of.
All Carly wants, at first, 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 the wishes of others. Carly and Arden's journey toward their true hearts — and one another — is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh. Just like real life.
Read this if you like:
THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY by Maria Andreu
This is one of the few other YA novels out there about the struggles of undocumented immigrants. Though Carly herself was born in the U.S., her parents were deported because they were involved in a minor car accident and their illegal status was discovered, a fear that TSSOE's main character M.T. shares.
SUCH A RUSH by Jennifer Echols
SUCH A RUSH is another contemporary novel that deals with poverty and a teenager with adult responsibilities forced to get a job at an early age. Also, love interest Grayson is similar to Arden in that they're both grieving for a dead sibling.
The Rec: Though the "popular boy/loner girl from different sides of the tracks who fall in love" thing has been done before, what makes JOYRIDE a strong rec for me is Carly's unique life situation, which isn't prominent in YA novels. She and her brother are trying to raise thousands of dollars to bring her deported parents and two young siblings back across the border, but she also believes in getting an education, and her family makes her feel guilty for spending any time on things that don't contribute to earning that money — even school.
Even without the immigration angle, there are so many teenagers who live in poverty and are expected to work almost full-time to contribute to the family's income, and Carly represents this situation well. I especially loved the push-pull between her very adult responsibilities and burdens, the expectations of her family, her personal goals of going to college, and then the realization that she's quite bitter about having to give up any sense of a normal teenage life/childhood.
Her resentment about her lack of freedom leads her to join Arden in his pranks (which are his way of rebelling against his awful father and emotionally absent mother after his sister's death), and you understand why, after three years of sacrificing everything for others, she wants to let loose and do something for herself — even if it risks her chance for college scholarships and the opportunity to bring her parents home.
The Caveat: The chapters alternate point of view as they switch between Carly's first person POV and Arden's third person POV, which can be a little jarring, but it wasn't too distracting.
You should read this because: JOYRIDE is a contemporary novel that manages to touch on topics like poverty, immigration, and the stigmatization of mental illness without being an "issue" book.
Recommendation by: Donna