by Meg Medina
First sentence: “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.”
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Content: There’s some mild swearing. The real reason it ended up in the Teen (grads 9+) section is for the bullying and the violence. It’s pretty graphic and the fallout is pretty severe.
Piddy Sanchez is starting a new school. It’s one of those inner city schools in a Hispanic neighborhood in Queens, the kind that justifies every bad stereotype there is. Just a few weeks in, and someone informs Piddy that Yaqui Delgado — whom Piddy has neither seen nor spoken with — is going to kick her ass. Why? Because she thinks Piddy is flirting with her boyfriend. (She’s not.)
It’s this threat, among other things, that begins defining Piddy’s life. She doesn’t feel like she can talk to her mother, who is working extra shifts to try and provide for the both of them. She does turn to her aunt Lila, but even then she keeps the awful details to herself.
It’s a harsh journey, one that I wouldn’t wish on any kid. I did like that there was a range of diverse people in this one; not all white characters were “good” and not all Latin@ ones were “bad”. There was a wide range of personalities, and the color of the skin just happens to be incidental. I also enjoyed how Piddy embraced her culture and loved her neighborhood.
I was glad for the solution to this one, as well. No one really “learned their lesson” and the bully wasn’t reformed and they didn’t become friends and live happily ever after. No, it was much more realistic and messy and showed that sometimes the best option isn’t always the most noble one.
It was a tough read, emotionally raw especially for me (because of the whole daughter thing), but I’m glad I did.