If it weren’t for the YALSA Morris Award, I probably would not have picked this book up, which would have been a tragedy indeed. Of course, that is why I love the Morris Award! The cover of this book did not appeal to me, and the description didn’t stand out from the hundreds of other coming-of-age type descriptions I have read in the past few years. I liked the title, and it was a finalist, so I picked it up.
This review may contain spoilers.
This is the story of Gabi’s senior year of high school, told from her point of view. What I really liked about this book is that Gabi doesn’t hold back on what she is feeling, especially in the face of racism and sexism. Two of my favorite quotes follow:
Skin that doesn’t make me Mexican enough. Skin that always makes people say, ‘You’re not what a Mexican’s supposed to look like.’ To which I respond, ‘Well, what is a Mexican supposed to look like? Carry a leaf blower on my back? Speak with a thick accent? Say things like ‘I no spik ingles?’ Should I have dark hair and dark eyes, like my mother and grandmother?
I wanted the zine to make people think about how girls are raised to think about our bodies and who gets to decide how we think about them. Like how Cindy was called a slut and constantly criticized for having a baby so young, but then it wasn’t seen as that bad for my mom to have a baby because she was an adult even though she was in a really bad situation. Or how we are raised to believe that it is our job and responsibility to protect our bodies and if something goes wrong, we are always at fault, even if it’s rape.
Gabi is having a hard year. It’s her senior year of high school, but nothing is going quite her way. One best friend is pregnant, the other finally came out as gay and has been kicked out of his house. Gabi’s father is an addict, home and lucid sporadically. Gabi wants to get out, to go away to college, but as her mother constantly reminds her, “good Mexican girls stay home and help their families when they are in need…” Throughout the novel, Gabi is trying to wade through the dichotomy of what is right and what is real.
This is not a novel in verse, but Gabi’s poetry is sprinkled throughout the book. I’ve noticed a lot more books that include poetry, and I really like the trend.
Quotes I noted:
Why do you tell me that sex is bad, but you tell my brother to use a condom? Why do you teach me to be independent but tell me that I need a man? (p. 142)
Do you know that every time you point out how much weight I have to lose, I love myself less? Do you know that when I try to talk to you, you never listen? (p. 142)
May she hoped we’d show him our mighty vaginas and fuck the gay our of him. (p. 60)
While I wouldn’t have chosen this book as the Morris Winner, I can completely see why the Morris Committee did. It’s a universal story for teens anywhere. If they have not been in a similar situation, they know someone who has. It has a high appeal value. It is well-written. (My personal favorite got a nod from the Printz committee, but that is a story for another review.)
Title: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
Age level: High School
Who I would give this book to: I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t give this book to just about anyone. But, of particular interest to those who desire/need a dose of diversity in their reading, those who like the diary entry format, or those who might find themselves in the position of any of the main characters.
Setting: Contemporary America
Favorite Character: Gabi. She’s smart and strong from the beginning, but she really seems to find herself in this novel.
Favorite Moment: There is a really great passage about what “Boys will be boys” means in the reality of girls’ lives. If nothing else, go read that passage, it starts on page 223.
Rating: 3 stars
Book Source: Library