Wanted: Ayarbe’s Best Novel By Far

Wanted is written by Heidi Ayarbe. It was published in 2012 by Balzer + Bray. Ayarbe’s website can be found here.

Genre: Tough Read, Realistic, Young Adult


“A one-word text message: That’s all Michael “Mike” Garcia needs to gather a crowd. Mike is a seventeen-year-old bookie, and Sanctuary is where she takes bets for anyone at Carson City High with enough cash. Her only rule: Never participate, never place a bet for herself.

Then Josh Ellison moves to town. He pushes Mike to live her life, to feel a rush of something—play the game, he urges, stop being a spectator.

So Mike breaks her one rule. She places a bet, feels the rush.

And loses.

In an act of desperation, she and Josh—who has a sordid past of his own—concoct a plan: The pair will steal from Carson City’s elite to pay back Mike’s debt. Then they’ll give the rest of their haul to those who need it most. How can burglary be wrong if they are making things right?”

~Inside Flap


I believe him. Like by being with Josh I’m covered in lucky fairy dust. He splits a chocolate graham cracker in two, handing me the bigger half. “Living in the land of the exiles isn’t so bad after all, right?”

“Depends on who you’re talking about. I don’t think Napoleon was too into Elba or the Jews were particularly fond of Babylonia.”

“Nah. But our little Babylonia isn’t so bad.” He raises his eyebrows. “Right?” he says through a mouthful of graham-cracker crumbs.

I nibble on the chocolate cracker. “No. Not too bad.”

“That’s it,” Josh says. “Babylonia.”

“What about it?”

“That’s us,” he says. “Babylonia.”

“Babylonia,” I say. He’s right.

~Ayarbe 113

Back at home, Lillian and I eat our pot pies and salad. The games are over. I organize the bets, payoffs—a spreadsheet of wins and losses. Nim lost. Again.

I’ve done an extra-credit assignment for calculus and one for physics, and I was considering writing an essay on the Donner party for AP History. Somebody should rescue me from me.

Night falls. Messages have been sent—losers and winners notified.

Josh hasn’t called.

I listen to the wind outside my window and stare out the black square of night. It feels like normal again. Like how things were just a couple of weeks ago.

A life of predictability. That’s what I want, what I like. That’s what makes sense to me, how I’ve survived.

Others’ lives unfold. Great sideline view.

~Ayarbe 164

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, gambling, death, violence

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Personally, I think this is Ayarbe’s best novel. I enjoyed Freeze Frame more, but this is superior in character depth and development, writing, and everything else. This was a really, really good book. I didn’t even enjoy it that much, but it was still really good.

Ayarbe tackles some great issues in this book: identity and right vs. wrong are the two main ones that I noticed. She also portrays the addiction of gambling really well. Really, there are just fantastic things going on with this book. There’s the whole Robin Hood principle going on: stealing from the rich to give to the poor or to those who need it, but Michal constantly wonders if they’re doing the right thing when more and more people seem to be getting hurt by it. Ayarbe also brings up illegal immigration, which is a more controversial topic, but is handled decently well.

Almost every chapter ends with a six-word memoir, an on-going assignment for Michal’s Creative Writing class. If I ever become a Creative Writing teacher, I want to use this. It’s a great idea. It teaches someone to be concise, but also to have some sort of depth and meaningful content.

The ending was killer. In more ways than one. I don’t know whether I liked it or not. It was definitely impactful, and maybe even necessary and/or inevitable. It was…shocking. But also not shocking.

I applaud you, Heidi Ayarbe!

What I Didn’t Like:

Ayarbe tackled some great issues, like I said, but I’m not sure if I like the way she handled/resolved them. Actually, I’m not sure if she even resolved anything. She just left it up in the air.

Um, was there some sort of romantic vibe going on with Michal and Mocho, or was that just my imagination? The whole “I’ll marry you, Moch” and “Te quiero, hermana” made me wonder. Maybe I’m just imaging things and/or really bad at Spanish. Also, it’s not that I didn’t like this; I’m just wondering.

Overall Review:

Wanted is, in my opinion, Ayarbe’s best novel. While I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I thought there was great character development and important issues being addressed, and the ending was definitely something that you will remember because not a lot of authors end their books this way. Also: double meaning title for the win!

Coming Up Next: LIE by Caroline Bock


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