I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is. (source)
I had never heard of this book before, but it's one of the books that my professors asked us to read for the next session of my Resources for Young Adults course. Our discussion next week will focus on the theme, "Why do we care what others think of us?" I think we all know that teens - and adults, too - do care about what others think, even when we don't want to. The books that we're reading for this next class discussion explore why that is, as well as potentially serve as a coping mechanism for teens who relate to some of the plotlines.
As you can probably gather from the title, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is about bullying. NYC teen Piddy Sanchez moves to a new school and shortly after she arrives, she's informed that a classmate, Yaqui Delgado, has a major vendetta against her. As Piddy's never even met Yaqui, she has no idea why Yaqui would hate her so much, but the fact is, she does. It's hinted that Yaqui believes Piddy was flirting (or worse) with her boyfriend, but this is never confirmed - much like many victims of bullying, Piddy never really knows why Yaqui treats her so cruelly.
This book was really eye-opening for me. Thankfully, I grew up in a family that I now realize was fairly privileged - I still don't think of my family as "wealthy," but my mom was able to be a stay-at-home mom until I was 15 (and my youngest siblings were 7), and while we didn't always have everything we wanted, we had everything we needed. Piddy, on the other hand, was the only daughter of a single mother, who's a Cuban immigrant - so that alone puts her at somewhat of a disadvantage. I've also been fortunate enough to never have been bullied: while I certainly had my fair share of teen drama and people weren't always nice to me, no one was ever cruel and I certainly was never physically harmed. Unfortunately, by the end of this story, Piddy can't say the same. So, I'm really glad that I read this book because I feel like it did a good job of opening my eyes to the harsh realities that some teens face - poverty and bullying - in ways that I haven't encountered before. Not only was this book eye-opening for me, but I think that teens who do face these problems would be able to relate to Piddy and hopefully find comfort in the conclusion of her story.
One thing that I really appreciated about this book was that even though Piddy faces some really horrible experiences, she retains a good sense of humor. I think it's definitely fair to say that she was depressed for a significant portion of the book (understandably so), but she still managed to be a witty narrator who told her story with flair. While there were parts of this story that were difficult to read due to their harsh nature, there were other parts that were able to make me smile as Piddy did her best to survive. I loved the ending; it was uplifting, it made sense - by which I mean that Medina didn't grasp at straws to achieve the ending that she wanted -, and almost all loose ends were tied up (the ones that weren't tied up weren't ones that I particularly cared about).
I'm so glad that I read this and I very highly recommend it. It's a fast-paced read and I think that there's a lot that can be taken away from it. This is a book that really spoke to me, even though I honestly can't relate to very much of it, and I think that it will resonate with others, too.