Cartel violence engulfs two teens caught up in an inexplicable summer romance in Mexico.
A scrappy fighter since childhood, Ryan Hess, a white American, devotes himself to boxing, his time in the ring giving him his only sense of peace. After winning the opportunity to train under the direction of a legendary Mexican boxer, Ryan gladly leaves behind his Texas border town along with his emotionally abusive stepfather, who is a corrupt, power-hungry sheriff. Pushed by her family to become a doctor, Dalila Sandoval, a sheltered, affluent Mexican girl, can’t seem to escape her seemingly predestined path. Meeting at a concert and unable to shake their mutual attraction, the pair, of course, soon give in to their respective desires. But when Dalila’s renowned lawyer father gets involved in a turf war between two rival Mexican cartels, the love-struck teens end up in the middle of the power struggle. In her exploration of adolescent love, Elkeles (Wild Cards, 2013, etc.) blends genuine moments of raw passion with indistinct, broad strands of danger, alternating each chapter between Ryan’s and Dalila’s first-person narration. The flimsy character development features underwhelming attempts at interrogating gender roles. Some stilted Spanish phrases also crop up. Equal parts rushed and endearing, this love story concludes with an implausible showdown, lackluster revelations, and a surprisingly bittersweet coda.
A high-spirited yet bizarrely safe tale of a risky love. (Fiction. 14-18)