Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Yaqui Delgado by Meg Medina

The actual, complete title for this great read is Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your A**, and since it's about bullying, the objectionable language is used for a reason.  The story shows, quite realistically to me, how a young woman, Piddy (Piedad) Sanchez--academically gifted, with great family and friend support--can get caught in a spiral of fear that almost destroys her life.    Transferring from her old high school to a new one in Queens without her best friend, she has trouble finding her place in this new, rougher neighborhood.  For reasons that are never really clear (and not the impetus for the bullying anyway), Yaqui spreads the word that Piddy better watch out.  As in most bullying situations, the imbalance of power causes the once-confident Piddy to doubt herself, to mistrust the adults around her, and to isolate herself from friends.  As she tries to deal with the looming threat of a beating, she begins a romantic relationship with a messed up childhood friend from her old neighborhood and starts to learn the truth about her long absent father.

To the outside (adult) observer, Piddy's choices and actions seem irrational but also completely understandable.  She lives by the motto, "Fear is my new best friend. It stands at my elbow in chilly silence."  With great skill, the author Meg Medina clearly shows how the pressure of being bullied can erode good decision making skills and weaken self esteem.  The ending comes quickly but realistically, and the many caring adults in Piddy's life work out some solutions with her help.  If you like fiction that is gritty and real, describing a time, place and events that happen in the real world all the time, this book is for you.  You will discover that there is no one answer to bullying, but neither is bullying an unsolvable problem; this novel balances both realities very well.

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