Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):   One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? 

And here's what I thought:   This book first came onto my radar when I was looking through reviews in journals (the ones I read for my job) and I thought it sounded good.  And then, I starting reading about some of the controversy that was coming up.  I decided to buy this for my library's collection (because hey, great reviews and some controversy?  That's my kind of book).   And I finally got around to picking it up for a read .... and finished it in a day.

This book is really realistic, which makes it difficult to read sometimes, but that's also what makes it a really important book.  And by that, I mean it's important to kids who read it, and also important for the grownups to read it, too.   Piddy Sanchez is a sympathetic character, with a completely authentic voice.  While I am not a Latina, I still felt that I could identify with her.  Even though the bullying I endured when I was growing up wasn't as violent as what happens to her, I still felt I could identify with her.   And I think that's what makes this a powerful book.

Not everything that happens in this book is fair, and while that's frustrating, it's realistic.  It takes a lot for Piddy to get to the resolution of the situation, which reflects real life.   The thing is, for a lot of kids who are bullied, there is no magical fairy (or magical grownup) who sweeps in and makes everything better in one amazing move.  

The author's writing style is descriptive, so it was easy for me to visualize Piddy, the people around her, and the settings.  I liked that she had a good balance of characters, as well, and that there were a few other story lines running through the main story line.  The pace is good, as well, with tension moving up and down throughout the story, which kept me turning the pages, because I was wondering what was going to happen next.

While I know that not every reader will love this book, I think it's an important book for a lot of people to read, if nothing else than to give them some insight into bullying.   For every person who doesn't feel like they've been bullied, there is someone who has.  And who just might need a book like this.




First lines:  "Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass."
A kid named Vanesa tells me this in the morning before school.  She springs out with no warning and blocks my way, her textbook held at her chest like a shield.  She's tall like me and caramel.  I've seen her in the lunchroom, I think.  Or maybe just in the halls.  It's hard to remember.

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