Once again, I’m posing a bit late for my Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge. Turns out the beginning of the year is TERRIBLE when your book launches in March. (LESS THAN A WEEK! GADS!) But I should be better this month! You know, after all the launch stuff.
I’m going to preface this by saying this book made me WEEP. Not just like, made my eyes itch for a little bit. I had tears running down my face. And no one even dies!
Okay. You may have heard of this book already, because it won a Pura Belpré medal, and they don’t just hand those out to everyone. This book has been on my radar for well over a year, but it wasn’t until A) the ALA awards happened, and B) I read The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind last month that I really, really wanted to read it. I stated somewhere (twitter?) that Meg Medina was on my watchlist, and this book just solidified that.
About the book: Piddy Sanchez (Medina once again showing her ability to come up with great names) doesn’t know who Yaqui Delgado is, but that changes when a girl named Vanessa tells her that Yaqui wants to beat her up. At first, Piddy’s not worried. After all, she did nothing to Yaqui, so why in the world would she want to kick Piddy’s ass? But it soon becomes clear that Yaqui isn’t backing down. And Piddy, who’s never been the fighting-back type, doesn’t know what to do. Fearful for what Yaqui has in store for her, Piddy loses track of assignments, starts ditching school, and even talks back to her mother.
So, I think the reason I began crying was because Medina really made Piddy’s fear and humiliation real for me. Piddy was so obviously a victim that I truly felt for her.
However, I also felt for Yaqui. I admit that I was a little disappointed when the book didn’t go the way I thought it would, revealing more insight into Yaqui’s character. There’s some insight, but it’s speculation. We never hear from the girl herself. I was also expecting some kind of understanding to happen between Piddy and Yaqui, which maybe would have explained things from Yaqui’s point of view, but that also didn’t happen. This doesn’t detract from the writing or the book in any way, but I’m a big fan of characters and I really wanted to know Yaqui better.
At the end of the book, there’s a sense of closure for Piddy, but there isn’t one for Yaqui. I was left with the impression that Yaqui will stick to her old ways and continue to bully other girls who say or do the wrong thing in front of her (or her boyfriend). And I craved that. Even if it isn’t realistic.
One thing I especially liked, though, was the ending, despite there being no resolution/explanations for Yaqui. I love that Medina had Piddy going to her school’s principal instead of having a Rocky-themed training montage and going after Yaqui in the parking lot. I’ve read quite a few books about bullying, and they often end in violence. It’s not a problem, because that is a realistic way to deal with a bully – to fight back. However, there are kids like Piddy who simply can’t fight back. They aren’t like that, or they just can’t bring themselves to do it. How are they supposed to stop their bullies?
I don’t believe going to an adult or an authority figure always works in the case of bullying, but sometimes it does. Medina did a great job of drawing a parallel between Joey’s abused mother and Piddy. Both were being bullied, and both refused to tell anyone. Piddy refused out of fear, while Mrs. Halper refused out of (it’s implied) love for her abusive husband. I loved that Joey told Piddy, toward the end of the book, that she should run if she needed to.
Sometimes running doesn’t seem like a good option. Running is perceived as cowardly, when in actuality running is a survival technique. When faced with something bigger and stronger than ourselves, does it make sense to stay and fight? I’m really glad this was something Piddy embraced.
Another thing I really liked was how totally Yaqui invaded Piddy’s life. Every problem Piddy had could be traced back to her situation with Yaqui. It was eye-opening, and I’d never thought of bullying that way – as something that can affect the victim so much that their whole personality starts to change. It makes sense, because I believe victims of domestic or child abuse go through the same thing, but it wasn’t until this book that I saw just how much bullying can affect someone.
My hat’s off to Meg Medina. Not only has she written two fabulous books, SHE MADE ME CRY BOTH TIMES. BOTH TIMES!
If you want to take part in the Latin@s in Kid Lit challenge, it’s not too late! Follow the link to sign up!