During the course of her senior year, Gabi Hernandez chronicles all the crazy things happening in her life. Her best friend Cindy is pregnant, her other best friend Sebastian comes out, her father struggles with his meth addiction, and she has her first experiences with boys. She also discovers a love of poetry and starts to develop an identity that is unabashedly feminist and unapologetically her own.
One needs only to read the first few pages of this excellent debut by Isabel Quintero to understand why it’s a knockout novel and well-deserving of the 2015 Morris Award. Quintero’s excellently rendered character of Gabi, as well as the world around her, make this a standout of a novel. Quintero is definitely an author to watch.
Gabi tells her story through diary entries that are compulsively readable and full of authenticity and emotional rawness. Gabi’s world is wholly unbalanced and there is a great deal going on, but the myriad issues never actually overwhelm the book’s narrative, which is a tricky balance to achieve. Quintero does it wonderfully here, allowing Gabi to grapple with some truly heavy adult stuff while also letting her be a teenage girl, too. The normal teen trials and tribulations are present alongside the truly dramatic, and they’re woven together seamlessly.
Full of heart and humor, Gabi is a real character and feels like a real teen. Her life is messy but full of hope, and her future is full of promise if she can survive her senior year of high school. Quintero isn’t afraid to explore a burgeoning feminist identity and clashes with traditional culture. She lets Gabi struggle with what it means to be a sexual being in a culture that tells her it’s wrong for girls to have wants. She lets Gabi deal with how she sees herself and how others see her, and the result is fantastic.
On the whole an excellent debut novel. One of my favorites of last year. This belongs on all library shelves and should work for a wide range of teens looking for an honest, complex piece of fiction. Highly recommended.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Cinco Puntos Press: 2014. Purchased copy.