DITCH RIDER by Judith Van Gieson


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Though she’d never say so herself, Neil Hamel is a ditch rider, one of the people who weed the irrigation ditches that crisscross Albuquerque and who try to keep people from falling in. Neil’s charge this time is Cheyanne Moran, a hard-case 13-year-old on the scene when teen gang-banger Juan Padilla is shot to death near one of the ubiquitous ditches. Even though the D.A.’s office has a witness who identifies the shooter as rival gang member Ron Cade, Cheyanne tells Neil she pulled the trigger. And despite everything Neil can do, Cheyanne’s bent on giving herself up to the law, serving her two years (the max) in the D Home for juvenile offenders and staking herself out like a target for Juan Padilla’s friends in the Fourth Street Originals. It’s not surprising that Cheyanne would be so eager to give herself up; as Neil remarks, the D Home, with its steady meals and TV privileges, would be like a summer camp to anybody coming from Cheyanne’s broken home (streetwise mother, lover who’s not Cheyanne’s father, kid brother who’s constantly being held up to her as the goody-goody she isn’t). But does her willingness to do the time really mean she’s guilty? Not much mystery about who shot Juan Padilla, but Neil’s clipped, atmospheric narrative, with every moment sliding by as quick as a desert sunset, compensates for it. Van Gieson makes the Albuquerque city limits just as hot as the blazing South Canyon in Hotshots (1996).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-017513-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1998


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