Carly Vegas just wants to be what her family expects.  Her parents were illegal immigrants, deported to Mexico when she was 10, and now they want her to bring them back.  Arden Moss used to play football, date “popular” girls, and pull pranks with his sister.  Now he just wants to defy his family’s expectations – especially his dad’s – and finding a new accomplice for his pranks is just the thing.  But when a chance encounter leads Carly and Arden to each other, they realize that the only expectations that matter are their own.

On the surface, Joyride is a romance between two mischievous and spirited teens, but it has more depth than most romances.  Carly works nights for the money to reunite her family, even though doing so will be very dangerous and very illegal.  Being noticed puts her family’s plans at risk, so she avoids attention at all costs; when she can’t duck the spotlight, she is awkward and uncomfortable.  Arden is still hurting after the death of his sister, Amber, nearly a year ago.  He’s gotten the impression that his dad is relieved that Amber can’t hurt his image anymore, and so Arden is lashing out in every way he can.  Carly and Arden both have realistic internal lives where they examine their behaviors and motivations, leading to realizations that allow them to grow.  They also both encounter blind prejudice and violence, must find the courage to face that prejudice, and struggle with the best way to resist those who hate without reason.  They are flawed and occasionally make stupid decisions, but the effort – and failure – to get to the right place is something many readers, teenage or otherwise, will understand.