Simply put, She Rides Shotgun is a fabulous debut novel. At its center is eleven-year-old Polly McClusky, a character that no reader is ever likely to ever forget. Polly has only dim memories of her father, Nate, who has been in prison for much of her life. But when he unexpectedly pops up in her schoolyard, demanding that Polly accompany him in a car that he's obviously stolen, Polly does as she's told, bringing along the small stuffed bear that is her best and perhaps only friend.
At eleven, Polly is obviously too old to be having a stuffed bear as her constant companion, but it's not been an easy eleven years, and things are about to get exponentially worse. While in prison, Polly's father killed the brother of the head of a prison gang called Aryan Steel. Nate was due to be released, and the gang was attempting to coerce him into working for them on the outside. Nate resisted; the brother came at him with a shank; shit happens.
Now the Aryan Steel has put a death sentence on Nate and, for good measure, on his ex-wife and daughter as well. Nate arrives back in his home town only to find that his ex and her new man have already been brutally murdered. He knows that Polly is next on the list and his only option is grab up his daughter and go on the run.
What follows is a story unlike any other in this history of father/daughter road trips. Nate and Polly McClusky are a combination unlike any other you've ever met, on the page, in the movies, or anywhere else, for that matter. Nate knows little or nothing about being a traditional father, which is a very good thing, because with a death threat from a vicious gang like the Aryan Steel hanging over her head, the last thing Polly needs is to be riding shotgun with Ward Cleaver. And, fortunately, Polly is not your run-of-the-mill eleven-year-old girl either. If she's going to survive, she's going to have to grow up quick and learn the kind of lessons that no one ever taught at the school she so recently left behind.
This is a beautifully-written book--dark, bloody and violent, with characters that will leave an indelible imprint on the mind of anyone who reads it. It rushes along, twisting and turning like a raging river, and once it grabs hold of you, all you can do is hang on for dear life and hope to somehow come out safely at the other end. A fantastic read.