Review and G!veaway: Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe

Publication Date: May 1st, 2012
Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardback, 400 pages
RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

A one-word text message: That’s all Michal “Mike” Garcia needs to gather a crowd. Mike is a seventeen-year-old bookie, and Sanctuary is where she takes bets for anyone at Carson High with enough cash. Her only rule: Never participate, never place a bet for herself.

Then Josh Ellison moves to town. He pushes Mike to live her life, to feel a rush of something—play the game, he urgest, stop being a spectator.

So Mike breaks her one rule. She places a bet, feels the rush.

And loses.

In an act of desperation, she and Josh—who has a sordid past of his own—concoct a plan: The pair will steal from Carson City’s elite to pay back Mike’s debt. Then they’ll give the rest of their haul to those who need it most. How can burglary be wrong if they are making things right?

Wanted will thrust readers into the gritty underbelly of Carson City, where worth is determined by a score, power is derived from threat, and the greatest feat is surviving it all.

Bonnie and Clyde meets Robinhood – the premise couldn’t have sound any more interesting and unique as that. Come to think of it, there have been books written within the parameters of either work but never both. Such an ambitious undertaking, if I may say so myself.
Seventeen year-old Michal is a bookie who had never known what it’s like to live the life of a person of her occupation.  And although the temptation to gamble was severe, she’d never once given in…until Josh Ellison moved to town and dared her to step away from the sidelines. She’s always been careful – a bystander. But with Josh’s appearance in her life, she was suddenly craving for a thrilling life. She soon found the high of gambling addictive. But when she starts to lose, she felt little choice but to bet money she never had and on occasions, was never hers. As bad ideas go, Josh and Mike decided to steal to pay off her debts. It soon becomes a challenge, a mission. At first, the stealing was justified by giving them to those in need and stealing from the rich vindicated the act of thievery. Desperation sets in as authorities’ clue in on the Babylonia duo.  Mike makes the biggest gamble of her life in an attempt to right all the wrongs. One bad decision led to another and at the end of it all, she would come to a delayed conclusion that it was all worth it.
This was my first Heidi Ayarbe work and I have a hunch that it won’t be the last. I’ve read some of the blurbs for her books and they just give you a hint that the themes veer toward social consciousness. The same could be said for Wanted. It was so much more than just bored, rich kids gambling their money away. Here, the topic of social and racial divide between Mexican-Americans and Americans was highlighted by the lack of respect between the two. Like it or not and whether you agree or disagree, this issue is still relevant.
Wanted is also about a girl finding herself in a world where she felt she didn’t belong and where her existence wasn’t wanted. But if you’re anticipating a girl who’d cry a river about her shortcomings, and, or whine about her social inadequacies, Mike isn’t that girl. I thought that she was TOO accepting of her place in the world that when she was speaking about her failures, physical or otherwise, it felt too matter-of-fact. I have a lot of admiration for this girl; she commands attention with a single word; she’s strong when she wants to be and weak when she can’t help it. In other words, she’s pretty freaking normal.
The romance was subtle through practically the entirety of the novel. Finding her challenger in Josh, the boy showed her all the things she’s been missing while she was busy watching life pass her by. The subtlety however, added to the culminating build-up when these two finally happened. It was sad, unfair and ultimately just…tragic.
VERDICT: Powerful, heart-wrenching, eye-opening novel. Wanted goes to the very heart of a girl who would learn who she is through some questionable decisions she would make in life. The Bonnie and Clyde part gives you an inkling of how this book ends; the Robinhood, gives you some insight on what our two main characters are about. But this book turned out to be so much more. Heidi Ayarbe’s writing is very real and compelling. She stripped away all the high school drama and replaced it with a very mature reality. I can’t wait to read the rest of her work.

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