Thursday, January 29, 2015

On the Edge by Allison Van Diepen

“Love is a dangerous thing.”

Life is looking up for Maddie Diaz. Her mother’s divorce from her stepfather is almost final and a letter arrived in the mail. Not only was she accepted to Florida State but she is getting a scholarship for tuition for four years. Her best friend, Iz, throws her a party after work to celebrate. After striking out with the latest guy Iz sets her up with, not her type, she leaves after 1:30am with another friend, Abby. They head off in different directions and Maddie cuts through the park. Its quiet but she sees Hector, a homeless man, talking to himself on a bench. Hector is a long time fixture in the neighborhood. Maddie is startled when she sees two gang members from Los Reyes sitting on the playground equipment. She passes by trying not to draw their ire and breathes a sigh of relief when she makes it out of the park. Hearing laughter, she turns to look over her shoulder. Maddie sees that the two gangsters have turned their attention to Hector. They start beating him and Maddie knows there is nothing she can do to help him. Several blocks from home, she ducks into an alley to call 911. The dispatcher tells her to stay on the line and to continue to watch what is happening. Hector stops moving and Maddie tells the dispatcher to send an ambulance. One of the Reyes pulls out a lighter and sets Hector’s clothes on fire. Maddie screams and takes off sprinting towards him. The Reyes run from the scene. Maddie attempts to help extinguish the flames but she keeps burning herself and is unable to help him. The EMTs arrive followed by the police. The flames are put out and Hector, unmoving, is placed in the ambulance. The cops question Maddie and she answers before thinking through the ramifications. At the police station, they have six men in a lineup before Maddie. With her wits returned, she hesitates answering anymore questions. The two men who set fire to Hector are there. Detective Gutierrez leaves Maddie alone in the room. She starts to question her safety when the detective returns. He tells her that Hector has died. Maddie tells him that suspects number one and six are the men responsible. Maddie goes home, fearful.

Maddie calls into work the next day and it seems everyone in the neighborhood has heard the news. Her mother even stayed home from work to stay with her, upset over the previous night's events. Begging off from hanging out with her friends, Iz brings some friends over to the hangout anyway. While watching television, they decide to go the the neighborhood market for some snacks. Unfortunately/fortunately, the good looking cashier is working. He watches them in the store, seemingly suspicious of their activity. When Maddie goes to look at him, he looks away. She decides that he has heard the news. Everyone but Maddie tries to flirt with him. As they are walking away, Maddie sees him watching her through the window.

A week later, Detective Gutierrez comes by to discuss the particulars of the case. She is a good witness and commends her for speaking out. He doesn't think the Reyes will retaliate but she should stick to public places and not take any midnight strolls through the park. At work the next night, Manny, a former gang member, talks with Maddie. He has been worried and offers to take her home from work. She asks him if he thinks the Reyes will come after her for talking. He doesn't think so since their leader, Salazar, has bigger problems to deal with right now, mainly a rival gang. After work, she goes with her friends to a college party. Sitting in a corner, she sees the hot guy from the market and promises herself that she will talk to him before the night is over. A girl, Julia, starts talking to her and they click, talking about college. Julia’s boyfriend Eric is throwing the party.  The two sit down and she introduces Maddie to a couple of her boyfriend's boxing buddies. One of them is the hot guy from the store. He looks at Maddie and says "hey". Julia is surprised that she knows Ortiz. After a bit, Ortiz turns and asks if she is Maddie Diaz. He admires what she did for Hector. They begin a conversation and Maddie begins to wonder about the possibilities of the two of them. She is crushed when he looks at his cell phone and says that he has to go. Later while at Denny's with the girls, Ortiz comes up in the conversation. They want to know if Maddie gave him her number. She tells them he didn't ask before he abruptly left. She vows not to go back to the store for two weeks.

While waiting at the bus stop, Maddie feels like someone is watching her but doesn't see anyone. Feeling like she is going crazy, she meets with the school psychologist. She asks if Maddie has been to the police. No, because she is embarrassed. She doesn't feel the way she did that night in the park when the two Reyes watched her. Maddie leaves. She meets up with Julia one afternoon and she notices Maddie is jumpy out in the open. She tells her about her past run ins with gangs. Julia knows just the place they can go for her to feel safe. They go to Eric’s boxing club and Maddie does. Eric is there but so is Ortiz. Julia comments that Ortiz is very nice to look at and Maddie is a bit embarrassed. After a few sparring matches, Eric and Julia ask Maddie to join them. She begs off saying she needs to work on the school newspaper. She notices Ortiz coming their way. Not wanting to be rejected again, she hurries off to catch the bus. While waiting at the stop, a black car pulls up and beeps the horn. It is Ortiz and her offers to drive her home. Maddie accepts. They talk along the way and Maddie isn’t for sure if he is flirting with her. She tries to keep her distance so as not to get hurt. He drops her off and she thanks him. Maddie is impressed that he doesn’t drive off until she opens her door.

One night while at the bus stop with a crowd of people,  Maddie’s worst fears come true. She was feeling paranoid and with good reason it turns out. She looks up when a car squeals its tires and she gets knocked down from behind. The men, definitely Reyes, beat her before dragging her to a waiting car. Everyone just stands and watches, unable to stop them. Maddie fights to remain conscious, knowing it is her only chance for escape. She is dropped to the ground and sees several guys fighting one another. The car peels off from the curb. Two guys drop down beside her and a blue eyed one tells her it is going to be okay. He picks her up and reassures her that he is there to help. She wakes up in the backseat of a car, her head cradled in someone’s lap. The guy up front asks Lobo how they are going to handle the situation. The guy holding her says her will carry her into the hospital. All of the guys have bandanas covering their faces. Lying her on a hospital gurney, he tells her that she is going to be fine and “until the next time.” Before he leaves, he tells the nurses that her name is Maddie Diaz.

Waking up in the hospital, Maddie is hurting. Her mother won’t leave her side. Iz promises her mother that she will stay with Maddie until she goes to sleep. She finally leaves so that the two girls can finally talk. When Maddie mentions the name Lobo, Iz freaks out. Lobo is the leader of the Destinos, the rival gang that has been screwing up the Reyes plans. Salazar will do anything to find out who Lobo is. Maddie has no idea what he looks like. She does knows that his kindness wasn’t faked and that she will see him again.

Who is Lobo? Why is he trying to stop the Reyes? Can he protect Maddie until she is able to testify? Who is Ortiz? Why is he taking an interest in Maddie? What happens when Maddie and Lobo aren’t able to stay away from each other? Will she discover his true identity? Can her heart survive an encounter from Lobo?

A great read for all the fans of Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry trilogy.
Visit Allison Van Diepen’s website.  

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