Title: Ride or Die
Author: Gail-Agnes Musikavanhu
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery
Publisher: Soho Teen
Review Copy: Received ARC from publisher
Availability: Available now
Summary: Best friends Loli Crawford and Ryan Pope have earned their nickname, the “Bonnie and Clyde of Woolridge High.” From illegal snack swapping in kindergarten to reckless car surfing in high school, they have been causing trouble in their uptight California town forever. Everyone knows that the mischief starts with Loli. When it comes to chasing thrills, drama, and adventure, no one is on her level.
At least until Loli throws the wildest party Woolridge High has ever seen just to steal a necklace and meets X, a strange, unidentified boy in a coat closet, who challenges her to a game she can’t refuse—one that promises to put her love of danger to the ultimate test.
Loli and X begin an anonymous correspondence, exchanging increasingly risky missions. Loli’s fun has always been free and easy, but things spin out of control as she attempts to one-up X’s every move. As Loli risks losing everything—including her oldest friend—she’ll face the most dangerous thing of all: falling for someone she shouldn’t.
Review: [RIDE OR DIE contains two scenes of threatened gun violence, but no one is injured.]
If I had to pick one word to describe Gail-Agnes Musikavanhu’s RIDE OR DIE, “chaotic” would be at the top of my list. It’s a fast-moving book that constantly ups the stakes in increasingly wild ways. Some that, frankly, strained my suspension of disbelief but turned out to be entertaining anyway. Musikavanhu has a gift for coming up thrilling hijinks and creating a protagonist I would completely believe would go through with them.
Loli is constantly chasing a thrill and eager to push against any and all boundaries to keep from being bored and to search for people worthy of increasingly exclusive friendship levels. It’s easy to tell from the start how quickly her game with X could go off the rails, and it’s no surprise when Loli’s obsession with the game and with X soon become significant sources of conflict between her and her friends. Loli’s adventures were fun to read about even when I was desperately hoping she’d realize the effects she was having on others soon as her letters to X provided multiple opportunities for self-reflection.
Loli’s character arc felt a bit rushed at the end, even though I did appreciate where she ended up after she got called out by some other characters. So much time was spent on the hijinks that there wasn’t much room for characters outside of Loli, X, and Ryan to be explored more. (I’m especially sad about how little screen time Cairo got as she seemed like she had a lot of potential.) Then again, the book was so fast paced that giving Loli’s emotional realizations more time to play out before the climax or develop more characters probably would have bogged down the story too much and interfered with the mounting worry/dread as things escalated with X. It’s a delicate balance that I think Musikavanhu got mostly right.
Recommendation: Get it soon if you’re a fan of fast-paced thrillers/mysteries. Debut author Gail-Agnes Musikavanhu created an entertaining thrill-seeking protagonist who finds herself nearly in over her head more than once. While character development is thin in some places, RIDE OR DIE is a fun, fast-paced summer read for readers who like an adrenaline rollercoaster.