books and reading · reviews

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

When some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass, she’s confused.  She doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, let alone what she’s done to incur her wrath.  People tell Piddy that Yaqui thinks she’s stuck up, shakes her ass when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her good grades and fair skin.  What can Piddy do to get Yaqui off her back?  As the threats escalate, Piddy struggles to control her own life.  How will she possibly survive this?

Meg Medina’s excellent and heartfelt novel tackles many issues.  In this compelling story, she examines ethnic identity, body image, family, domestic violence, and bullying.  All of this could add up to one heavy-handed problem novel, but it doesn’t.  Medina’s prose is beautiful and honest, and her characters are absolutely authentic.  This book transcends the traditional problem novel and is a standout of 2013.

Piddy is a good girl with strong, supportive female role models in her life.  She’s smart and focused on school, and her future is bright.  But when she has to uproot her life and move to a new school, she is flummoxed by the hostility she faces from a girl who is a complete stranger to her.  Because of how strong the first-person narration is, readers can feel Piddy’s mounting panic about Yaqui’s threats.  Readers will experience the same claustrophobic dread that Piddy feels as Yaqui makes her more and more afraid.  It’s heartbreaking and very, very real.

It’s worth noting that Medina gives care to her secondary characters, including Piddy’s mother.  The feelings of the supporting cast are not set aside for the sake of the protagonist, and the novel is elevated as a result of this. Medina’s strong characterization and excellent writing make this a treat to read, even when it’s breaking readers’ hearts.

Ultimately empowering, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass doesn’t ever pander to its readers.  There are no easy answers here, and there’s definitely no easy way out for Piddy or Yaqui.  Medina treats this sensitive issue with such care and respect, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this book.  Highly, highly recommended.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. Candlewick: 2013. Library copy read for the 2013 Cybils.

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