Anyway. Michal is a bookie, she meets Josh, things are cool. Then there’s a whole string of gang-violence and general racism that rocks her world, resulting in the death of a family friend, who happens to be an illegal aliens. She and Josh steal money to pay for the friend’s funeral, and then they keep doing it, stealing from elitist white families to anonymously donate to organizations like Planned Parenthood, free clinics, soup kitchens, etc. Except they get caught and, in a very cinematic ending, Michal finds meaning to her life.
As a character, I thought Michal was realistic and well-rounded, but I didn’t necessarily find that I was invested in her story. She made a lot of really bad choices, and even though she had the best of intentions, I often wanted to shake her or do something to make her see that she wasn’t doing what was best for herself. And, maybe, she lacked a little bit of depth. Certainly, I think all of the secondary characters were fairly shallow.
An interesting thing about Wanted is the way the story unfolded. The first half deals mainly with Michal being a bookie and the racial tensions that are present everywhere she goes. Then, in the second half, Ayarbe focuses more on Michal’s Bonnie/Clyde relationship with Josh and their Robin Hood vigilantism. Once again, outwardly, I really liked this book’s plot, but I failed to make an emotional investment with it.
I feel like this had potential to be more. Maybe Heidi Ayarbe attempted to push too many hot-button topics. Abortion, racial identity, gang warfare, racism, elitism, feminism—lots of -isms. The nice thing, though, was that all those issues were spread out over the course of the text. This is a fairly long book for a YA contemporary, so there was room for me to breathe throughout it all. And I never felt that the author was preaching at me.
I liked Wanted a lot—it has all sorts of elements that I enjoy. (I know it doesn’t seem that I liked this book! I did, I promise.) Yet at the same time, it was lacking that indefinable something that separates a good book from a great one. Whether it was Ayarbe’s prose, her characters, or her plotting, I’m not sure. But something was missing.