Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe


Maya's life has always been chaotic. Living with a con-man dad, she's spent half her life on the run. Whenever her father's schemes go wrong, Maya finds a scientific way to fix it. But when her dad ends up in prison and foster care fails, Maya grasps at her last possible hope of a home: a long-lost aunt, who may not even exist.

So Maya formulates a plan, and with her wits, two unlikely allies, and twenty dollars in her pocket, she sets off in search of this aunt, navigating the unpredictable four hundred miles from Reno to Boise. Life on the streets, though, becomes a struggle for survival—those scientific laws Maya has relied on her whole life just don't apply. And with each passing day, Maya's definitions of right and wrong are turned upside down when she's confronted with the realities and dangers of life as a runaway. She can't help but wonder if trying to find her aunt—and some semblance of stability—is worth the harrowing journey or if she should compromise and find a way to survive in her own.


Searing, potent and unflinching, Compromised is a uncharted look into life on the streets and what it means to be pushed aside by society. Torn between her love of her father and her anger at being betrayed by him, Maya finds herself thrust into a world unimaginable to anyone not in it. Though her life has been less than ideal, she would easily take the cons and quick escapes to an orphanage.

Maya is a reverberating character, holding a powerful mix of courage and fear. Her character dynamic and progression is painfully realistic with her initial reactions to becoming a warden of the state to her decision to leave and try on her own. Holding a certain level of naivety, Maya's struggles are undeniably believable. Despite her anger at her father, she is unable to turn her back on him completely. Many of her reactions are wrenching to read but pull out the true nature of this story. With her penchant for science and a constant need to develop a hypothesis and procedure, Maya's character is pitched in a unique way. Though she has a large vocabulary, her school intelligence is not likely to cause a dissonance with readers.

Sick of being passed around to foster families that don't care, Nicole goes with Maya. Their companionship is both endearing and entertaining, the two tied together by a tragic cause. With nicknames understood only in context, they forge a friendship seen by the reader before the girls recognize it. The softer sides of both shines through, lurking beneath the forced rough exterior they must have to survive not only in foster homes and orphanages but on the streets as well. With an affliction for mobsters, much akin to Maya's science obsession, Nicole's character is as strongly defined and developed as Maya's. Strengthening the overall effect more, the banter between these two provides relief from the overall dark air of the book.

Further along their way, the two girls find a young boy also living on the streets. His character is as noteworthy, memorable and heartrending as Nicole and Maya, all three pulling the reader's compassion and emotions. With his own quirks and habits, Klon adds a strong dynamic to the girls, mixed further with his unique way of viewing things. He tugs Maya and Nicole between being motherly towards him and their own obligations to themselves. The battle between putting themselves first and helping the group comes up often, interspersed with their growing desperation to survive and the things they are willing to do to make it happen.

In a society where people on the streets, young and old alike, are written off and ignored, Compromised will pitch a jarring look into the other side. How wrong is stealing, when a cheap bag of cough drops could mean the difference between a night of pain and some sort of relief? How hurt is the diner who's stuck with a bill for some pancakes and coffee when it means some homeless teens have food in their bellies for the day? These questions and more are thrust forward in Compromised, ensuring the reader will rethink their state of mind on many things that have become accepted as normal.

With an unerringly strong voice and writing, Compromised pulls the reader in from the start and doesn't let them go even after the book has finished. A dark and depressing overall air mixed with innumerable twists, this is a gripping read unlike any other. The reader will constantly question the fate of all three kids, wondering if they will find a way to their goals or end up dying, frozen on the streets like many others. Death is lurking constantly around them, reminding them in countless ways. Intensely developed and defined characters, a guttural world created, and echoing writing, this terrifying look at events still taking place in our modern world is sure to pack a punch and remain with the reader.

Source: ARC received from author free of charge in exchange of an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061728497
ISBN-13: 978-0061728495

Author's Website


  1. This looks really good! I'm going to take a look at it!

  2. Never heard of this one but I'm for sure adding it to my list after reading this review. :)

  3. Oooh, I have another book to add to my TBR pile (which you already know is VERY SMALL so... I might get to this book faster than usual!) Fantastico review<3

  4. Glad you enjoyed the book, Kari! If anyone wants to check out the first few chapters of Compromised, you can see them for free here:

  5. Best book I've ever read! But I don't like how it ended, I wanna know what happened to Nicole aka Capone. :)

  6. I loved Compromised. It made me wish I could nominate to YA Cybils titles.

    I will be watching the clock today with fingers crossed hoping someone nominates Compromised.