My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Justine Korman Fontes’ “Deadly Drive” is a part of a series of novels called “Surviving South Side”. I definitely appreciate that this story is directed toward reluctant teen readers and tackling such a tough subject. But there were a lot of things in this novel that completely rubbed me the wrong way. The story starts with a teen named Rob Ramirez who’s in love with a girl named Gaby. (Instalove, even for this particular story) He’s convinced they’re in love and that she’s meant to be “the one”. They fool around, sex is a part of the dialogue and there are gestures made in that measure (including where Rob actually reaches under her skirt in one scene). There’s a progression where Rob’s with Gaby and his friends, driving drunk, and a horrible accident occurs. They have to deal with the aftermath of events following, and it doesn’t come without losses or punishments.
I think there was a significant disconnect between the presentation of the characters and their reactions versus the gravity of the situation. Sure, I get that Rob’s confused, his mind struggles to make sense of things, but much of it felt very wooden in the dialogue, the depicted scenarios, and the characters – for the most part – were one dimensional and underdeveloped. It was hard to maintain interest in the beginning, and even with the incident and the aftermath – while Rob does eventually grow and come to terms in some measures, it doesn’t feel like there’s a true resonance with respect to the event, the loss occurring, and the emotional gravity that one would feel if someone were in Rob’s situation. Plus, with Gaby’s emotional guilt and the thoughts that are going on with her (depression, survivor’s guilt, blame), it doesn’t feel as weighted as it should be given the age of the teens and what that includes.
I couldn’t really recommend this, even for a reluctant teen audience. I think the intention of the story is well thought, but I don’t think the execution here was strong.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Lerner.