A young bookie finds herself on the wrong side of the odds.
For 17-year-old bookie Michal Garcia, life used to be simple: She recorded bets, collected and distributed cash and splurged on expensive clothes. But she never bet herself. She connects with a rebellious classmate, Josh Ellison, after he observes Michal taking revenge on a client who failed to pay up, and he begins encouraging her to take more risks. When a family friend dies, leaving behind many debts, Michal and Josh enact their own wealth redistribution system to help the family, charitable organizations and themselves. As they become bolder in their law-breaking, Michal finds herself trapped. Ayarbe’s laudable interest in exploring issues of social justice in her novel is compromised by didactic dialogue, forced romance and a dull narrative. Approaching the hot-button topic of immigration through generic soundbites, for instance, doesn’t add any depth or insight to the discussion, especially when voiced by unlikable characters. Michal’s friend Moch embodies gang-member stereotypes, while Michal is as uninteresting as she imagines herself to be, never standing out even in her own narration. Ayarbe’s attempts at chemistry between Josh and Michal never come to fruition, creating awkward gaps where emotional connections should occur.
A bad bet all around. (Fiction. 14 & up)