________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 34. . . .May 12, 2017


Run the Risk.

Allison Van Diepen.
New York, NY: HarperTeen (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollins Canada Ltd.). 2017.
277 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-06-243335-0.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Ann Ketcheson,

**** /4



Alex had started hanging out with these guys almost a year ago. I didn’t like them on sight. Why would they want to hang out with my brother, who was several years younger than them? My instincts had been right. Alex had gone from a regular kid to a thug overnight. Although they never talked about it in front of me, I knew they were members of the Locos – the most violent gang around.

I hated them.

Last May, they’d all gotten arrested for armed robbery – no doubt Animale had masterminded it. The last two months of my senior year of high school had been turned upside down. With the stress of Alex’s arrest, I’d had a bit of a breakdown. I didn’t finish two term papers and failed three exams. It was a wonder I’d graduated at all. But my GPA had plummeted, and my acceptance to the Early Childhood Education program at Miami-Dade had been revoked.

After a few months of hell, the charges against them were dropped due to some legal loophole. I’d been left to pick up the pieces of my life – just like I had to pick up the mess they left whenever they came over.

As I finished the slice of pizza, I could feel Animale’s eyes on me. I finally raised my head. His eyes sharpened. He saw the hatred on my face.

He had a tiny teardrop tattoo below his right eye. I always wondered if the teardrop was meant to represent his tears or other people’s.

I held his gaze, telling him without words that I wasn’t weak, that he wasn’t welcome here, and that in the tug-of-war for my brother, I intended to win.


Grace is struggling to put together the pieces of her life. She is doing on-line courses in an effort to get into university while also volunteering at a child care centre and holding down a part-time job at a cinema. She is on her own since her mother has died and because her dad is rarely home due to his job as a long haul trucker. Grace’s brother Alex is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged gang member, and there seems to be little she can do to keep him from making some major mistakes. One of the things Grace hates most is the gang lifestyle. A few years ago, she made her boyfriend Mateo choose between her and a gang, and he made the decision to stay with the gang. Now Mateo has resurfaced in her life, and Grace hopes his experience and knowledge will be enough to help him persuade Alex to turn his back on the gang lifestyle. Some of the old romantic feelings return, but Grace is determined to ignore them and concentrate only on how Mateo might be able to help her brother.

     Allison van Diepen has written two other novels which are set in the gang world of Miami – On the Edge and Light of Day – and readers will recognize some favourite characters and other echoes from the previous books. On the other hand, Run the Risk can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel.

     Grace is a resourceful and determined young woman who seems wise beyond her years and shoulders a great deal of responsibility. She is strong and resourceful and follows her conscience even when it makes life difficult. She loved Mateo years ago but refused to stay with him if he joined a gang. Now the same problem arises. Mateo is willing to help Alex and dissuade him from becoming a gang member, but then Grace realizes that Mateo is, himself, involved with the Destinos. Can she ever trust him?

     The character of Mateo is likeable both as a romantic hero and in his role as mentor to Grace’s brother Alex. Readers learn that he has turned his life around and the Destinos are not what they appear on the surface. This character is the author’s way of introducing an interesting subplot into the book, giving the story a rich and multilayered texture.

     Trust is an important theme in the story. Grace has to trust Mateo despite her reservations. She wonders if she can trust her dad for help when he always seems to avoid responsibility. The theme is mirrored in Grace’s work at the child care centre where one of her greatest achievements is to earn the trust of a little girl who seems to have withdrawn from everyone else around her.

     There are plot and thematic echoes from van Diepen’s earlier books, and again the novel is placed in the tough urban Miami environment. The setting is mean and gritty and is portrayed well by van Diepen who seems to have done her research. Run the Risk is thriller, drama and romance all rolled into one. Just it appears that everything is settling down for a predictable ending, van Diepen throws one last bit of excitement into the plot. Readers will be turning pages right to the end of this fast-paced novel.

     As well as being a noted young adult author, van Diepen is a high school teacher who seems to understand and appreciate teenagers. This book is exciting and is filled with drama yet the chapters are short, the vocabulary is appropriate for its audience and the pages are not overwhelming with too much text. The novel will appeal to any teen readers but is also suitable for reluctant readers.

     Once again, Allison van Diepen has given her fans an inspired, timely and provocative book which deals with real-life situations in a straightforward way while also showcasing strong and appealing characters. Run the Risk is sure to please and hopefully van Diepen has more ideas and inspirations for future novels.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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