Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe
Summary: Michal is her school’s bookie, but she’s never actually placed a bet. She’s fine with playing it safe. When Josh transfers in, he urges Michal to try it—after all, bookies know a heck of a lot about gambling. But soon the stakes are raised: Josh is eager to exact vigilante justice on the rich people in town, pulling Michal along for the ride. Soon both teens are caught up in a mess involving gangs, grand theft, and the code name Babylonia.
My thoughts: Wanted starts off slow, giving us a nice introduction to Michal’s everyday life. When Josh arrives, things kick into gear: the story takes off running and maintains a quick pace until the very end. The life of a bookie-turned-delinquent isn’t exactly what I’d call calm: Michal’s story can get incredibly stressful. But it’s this stress that makes you realize just how involved you are in the story—how good Heidi Ayarbe is at making sure you’re completely immersed. This is why I’m a huge fan of Heidi’s books: they make you care about fictional people in a way you never have before.
Aside from being engrossing, Wanted also makes you think about morality. Is what Michal and Josh doing right, even though it’s illegal? That’s for you to decide, obviously, but you’ll find it’s more difficult to decide than it would seem. At the very least, you’ll be rooting for Michal because she’s someone easy to relate to. I loved Michal as a narrator because she could be anyone. Michal’s illicit job aside, she’s a conflicted individual, trying to figure out her own sense of justice while managing personal problems. In other words, Michal is more than meets the eye, which is how most of us feel about ourselves.
The thing I love most about Wanted is that it never seems to go in the direction you’d anticipate. The ending, especially, is a huge surprise—but when you think about it, it’s absolutely perfect. The story twists and turns around all of Michal’s escapades in a way that—at least to me—is very creative and smart.
If you’re looking for a darker contemporary read, Wanted is the way to go. It took me a bit to get into, but it really impressed me overall. Give it a shot if you’ve ever been curious about the underside of gambling.
For those who like: realistic fiction, bad-girl protagonists, class conflict
Source: publisher at ALA. Thank you!