Sunday, November 2, 2014

Betting Blind by Stephanie Guerra - Review

Betting Blind
(Betting Blind #1)
by Stephanie Guerra
Expected publication: November 4, 2014 by Skyscape

Some risks are worth taking...

The cards are stacking up against Gabriel James: first there’s Phil, the guy paying the bills for Gabe’s mom (but not leaving his wife). Then there’s Gabe’s new school, filled with kids competing for the Ivies, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street—while Gabe’s just trying to swing enough Cs to graduate.

Gabe’s luck seems ready to change when he meets Irina Petrova: a hot violinist who is home-schooled by her strict Russian parents. When Gabe gets her number, he impresses the top guys at his school. When he becomes the drug connection for parties, his reputation is solidified. How else is he going to afford hanging with his new crew and impressing Irina? Anyway, it’s not really dealing if you’re just hooking up friends...right?

Gabe’s never been loyal to a girl before, but he finds himself falling for Irina hard. As the stakes are raised, Gabe will have to decide how high he’s willing to bet on school, on friends, on Irina—but most of all, on himself.

My review:
Gabe has always had a hard life, growing up poor in an area full of gamblers, drug dealers and drug addicts. It's not much better now, even though he is living with his mom in a nice place and is in a nice school. His mom is the mistress of a married man who is paying all of their bills, but if they need any money for anything extra, his mom has to ask permission. And Gabe knows he doesn't fit in at his new school. His life is like night and day compared to the kids there. When a hot Russian, homeschooled violinist performs at his school, Gabe gets her number to impress some popular guys. He succeeds and now they are interested in hanging out with him. He needs money for clothes and activities they do so he can fit in. But he also needs money to impress Irina, because he is certainly interested in her. So now he is conflicted with his need to have the money to impress the guys and Irina and his desire to be better and be the kind of person Irina expects him to be.

Stephanie Guerra has managed to flawlessly depict Gabe because the laid-back, street slang easily makes a reader feel they are in Gabe's head. It is easy to see Gabe's internal conflict about selling drugs and understand that the life he has had is the main reason he feels he really has no other solution. You don't have to like Gabe or agree with his decisions to like this story. This sort of thing goes on more than most people want to realize because that kind of life almost always leaves the person with no options, and I really enjoyed how Ms. Guerra highlighted that sad fact while the focus was on Gabe and his story.

Betting Blind doesn't so much have an ending as this part of Gabe's story is wrapped up with the next stage already set up. I don't always like this sort of ending, but Ms. Guerra handled it nicely. I am looking forward to the next book in the series to follow Gabe's story, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the grittier side of real life.

A copy was provided for an honest review.

*You can also check out my review of Torn by Stephanie Guerra.

About the author:
Stephanie Guerra is the winner of the 2014 Virginia Hamilton Essay Award for her contribution to the professional literature concerning multicultural literary experiences for youth. Her debut young adult novel, Torn, received a starred audiobook review from School Library Journal. Kirkus called her “a strong new voice” and Booklist praised her “complex characters.” Her first middle grade novel, Billy the Kid is Not Crazy, is on shelves now. Kirkus noted the “energy, wit and sensitivity” and “strong characterizations” in Billy.  Stephanie teaches children’s literature and writing at Seattle University. She also teaches creative writing at King County Juvenile Detention and researches and speaks about literacy instruction for at-risk teens. Her next two novels for teens, Betting Blind and Out of Aces, will be out in 2014 and 2015. Her Zach and Lucy series for early readers, co-written with Jennifer Bradbury, will be out in 2016. Stephanie thanks Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and 4Culture for their generous support of her work. She lives in Seattle with her husband and children.   

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