The first book I finished, though officially I started it on the last day of 2016, was quite a read. It was a book I didn’t quite know that I needed to read, until I read it. Don’t you just love when that happens?
I like how it opens, and how in this first journal entry that we read, Quintero sets the scene for the book.
My mother named me Gabriela, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.
Quintero pretty much establishes what the issues that drives her novel, especially Gabi’s struggles to be a modern Mexican-American young woman, in what is more of a patriarchal culture.
Among the very many things that happens in this book are:
– date rape
– teenaged pregnancy
– a gay teen coming out
– drug addiction
and some other things that I probably shouldn’t point out because spoilers.
But, I don’t know, it’s a lot. I don’t mean to say that this all couldn’t be happening to a group of friends and their families out there. I’m not an American teenager, maybe this is all more common than I imagine. When I was Gabi’s age, I was in school in Singapore, where uniforms are required, shoes had to be white, long hair on girls had to be tied up, boys’ hair couldn’t touch the collars etc. It just seems like it was far more innocent times then (obviously I feel like I am too old for this book….! Why couldn’t it have been written and published when I was an actual teenager?).
I adored Gabi’s growing into her own creativity, learning to write poetry, expressing her emotions in what she writes, and her letters to her father made me tear up.
But that cover. Can we talk about that cover? Having read the book now, I understand where the cover art is coming from but if I had randomly come across this book on the shelves of a bookstore or a library, I would never have picked it up.
I loved Gabi. I wrote in my Litsy review that I just wished I could give her a hug! She’s fierce, independent, strong-willed, smart and funny. And I love her honesty, her vulnerability, her strong bonds with her friends and family. What a great read this was. Why didn’t I read it earlier when everyone was saying it, just read it!
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