Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns: Book Review
Overview: Damani is still grappling with her father's unexpected death, her mother's debilitating grief, and the bills that won't stop coming. As a driver for RideShare, she sees her ride fees steadily diminishing, and the car that her father left her is only alive because her friend owns his own garage where he gives her free matinence. The only thing that keeps Damani going are her friends and the collectivist warehouse where the entire community comes together to help each other and dance off their bad days. Her life follows a steady rhythm of regular rides and caring for her mom until she meets Jolene, a girl she instantly falls head over heels for. As tension in the city rises, her friends turn to organizing, and her relationship with Jolene starts to threaten her entire world. Damani is standing in the center of a hurricane just trying to survive until she gets to the other side. Overall: 3
Characters: 3.5 Damani has a clear voice and is an enjoyable character to follow. She's witty and snarky but also has so much heart. She's tired of the status quo, but she's not an organizer like Sharif. For most of the novel, she just wants to keep all her plates spinning in the air as the app and her financial situation drains the life out of her. She's funny and keeps a levity in a book that deals with a lot of dark realities.
Her friends appear in brief moments in the book. They're clearly a tight-knit, loving group, but I wish they had more scenes together in place of the excessive number of chapters with various random riders. Jolene is the prototype of white, blonde, Instagram activist girl who loves to talk about how much she cares about everyone but actually poses more of a hazard to the people she helps for clout than any help she gives. It's hard to figure out why Damani becomes so infatuated by her because we really only see Jolene as a one-dimensional person. She obviously gives Damani a different outlet to focus on away from her troubles, but it would've been nice if there was something more to Jolene to explain the intense infatuation.
Damani's mom is the secondary character who gets the most nuanced story. She begins unwilling to walk even between the couch and the living room, unwilling to try to exercises the might make her feel better, and utterly defeated by grief. This stays stagnant for much of the book, but she starts to come more into herself as Damani struggles and needs more of a parental figure again. It's really beautiful to see how even in the roughest patches, they're determined to not give up on each other.
Plot: 3 The pacing in the book is great with the short chapters that keep you moving through the novel fast. The issue is that the books feels like a commercial fiction comedy, but it has the aimless rambling of literary fiction and then random spurts of high level drama and action. It's never quite clear what the story is progressing towards, and these random bursts of tons of plot are couched between long stretches of small chapters showing the rides Damani drives which break up the action of the story awkwardly. There were also just subplots that didn't make a ton of sense, and the narrative just got really messy to follow. The elements didn't quite blend together as well as they could have, and it felt like a case of too many ideas trying to take center stage at once without any of them truly taking the dominant position. I wish the author had spent more time developing the world of this collective and focused on this group of friends who work in and around RideShare.
Writing: 3 As much as the snippets of various drives got repetitive and felt somewhat unnecessary after a while, they were some of the most interesting writing in the book. I was honestly shocked this was the first book I've read that featured an Uber-like platform heavily and that also highlighted the realities of being a driver since it's so ubiquitous in culture now. I had super high hopes for the book because it's such a rich topic, but the story just wound up getting fragmented in too many different directions to make a strong statement.
I also found it disorienting how this city is never described or given a grounding sense of place. There's really no defining elements to it other than that there are protests every day. It wasn't even clear what country it was located in, just clearly not the US because speed was given in kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour. I understand the impulse to not clearly define a sense of place because the book tackles issues that are happening in any major North American city, but I feel like having something to anchor the story to might have helped its overall execution.
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