Read of the Week: ‘Joyride’ by Anna Banks

JoyrideA 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’ve been putting off reviewing this novel for quite a few days now, torn between being honest with myself and being understanding to the way the situations in Joyride were portrayed. Diversity is so important, and not just now that its gaining momentum, but always.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all these new, uniquely beautiful stories being written about so many different countries and cultures, but I love them so much more when they’re done right. Take, for instance, a few of my favorites, like The Paper Gods series by Amanda Sun, or Played by Liz Fichera. Both of these books, and their series, follow incredible characters in such honest ways, never pretending to know any more, or any less, than they actually do. That is what makes those stories so incredible: not just the places or characters, but the level of raw and original emotion they evoke from readers. I’m not here to critique a writer on her attempt to write about Latin culture, but I am here to talk about the fact so many people are ignoring: so many authors are confusing the Hispanic and Latin community for being consistently made of Mexicans, leaving out the so many other minorities present in these categories.

Aside from this, I will state my largest problem with this first and foremost to avoid confusion, as well as the backlash I know is coming my way.

Ask yourself this: of all the previous YA novels you’ve read by non-Hispanic or non-Latin authors, how many have consisted of a Hispanic and/or Latin character helping to support their family and get them over the border, struggling to free their parent(s)/sibling(s) from jail, or withstanding pressure from a local gang to join in? Of all of those, how many were of Mexican descent?

Nothing hitting you at the moment? Remember Simone Elkeles’ most popular series to date, the Perfect Chemistry companion novels? Missed out on those, you say? Well, did you get to The Moreno Brothers series by Elizabeth Reyes? Romiette and Julio? Still not feeling it? How about a more recent title like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe? (I am aware Saenz is Latin) Most, if not all of these stories, also feature characters who are Mexican, leaving out the fact that aside from Mexicans, there are Colombians, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and so many others with lively cultures.

Moving forward, I’m not here to bash any of those pieces of fiction, because I will tell you this: all of them are incredible and entertaining in their own ways, and I have absolutely nothing against them except for the fact that to a certain extent, they may be enforcing the stereotypes that have been created about the Latin and Hispanic communities. Will I lie to you and say that people aren’t facing situations like all of these characters every day? Of course not. I’m well aware what is happening with my people outside of, as well as in, this country, but riddle me this: when will we be delivered a story about a Latin/Hispanic character that lives everyday life just like the rest of teens in America? Because I’ll tell you that you’ll find those more often than not.

I’m so proud that people are caring about the beautiful Latin/Hispanic culture and the hardships people of that culture face, but people are beginning to forget that we are just like everyone else. We don’t all eat quesadillas for dinner every day or come from halfway houses. I promise you that the majority of us love Beyoncé and cheeseburgers just as much as you do.

I don’t want this to be a war on the current Latin/Hispanic literature we have out in the world right now, but a wake-up call to authors to remember that we are normal people and we need to be portrayed as such.

Unfortunately, Banks fell victim to the trend of storytellers who portray young Latins as children out to support their families, living in small trailers, and being harassed by local authorities. Again, is it wrong to say that this doesn’t happen? Of course not, because it does, but it is not so common as people would like to think, and we as humans need to see this.

Anna created a highly addictive story with wonderful characters, and I won’t say that I wasn’t entertained for the most part, but the constant strain of racism and enforced stereotypes were painful to read, almost as painful to think that this is what people are seeing us as from the outside looking in.

Our lit world needs to see more Latin/Hispanic portrayed in a natural and optimistic light for the sake of all the people seeking honest diversity, and I hope that in the near future, we see just that.

Rating: 4/10

Steph is 20 years old, born and raised in Miami, Florida. An avid reader and aspiring author, she oftentimes wishes she were a fictional character. The rest of her free time is divided between watching bad foreign films and partaking in Disney trivia. She can be contacted via Twitter (@Stephest21) or email :