Thursday, October 17, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

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?

I was offered an ARC of this book for review months ago, but I declined because of the subject matter. I wasn’t sure I could read the story objectively, and I was afraid it was going to be unrealistic. Having finally read it, I discovered I was right about one thing and wrong about the other: I *did* have a hard time reading it objectively, but that’s because the story is so very realistic. I was emotionally sucked in, and sympathized with Piddy in a visceral way.

Bullies don’t always have a reason for picking on someone. Piddy had never seen or spoken to Yaqui before another girl announces that Yaqui wants to kick her ass. We do find out that it has to do with Yaqui’s boyfriend in a roundabout way, but, really, Yaqui has simply decided that she doesn’t like Piddy, and therefore will make Piddy’s life miserable. This is done in a realistic way that doesn’t come close to over-the-top. Piddy’s fear and stress are palpable, so the bad choices she makes feel natural and sympathetic. The ending is also realistic, because it is nowhere near perfectly happy. It’s just the best situation that Piddy could find, given the circumstances.

I’ve read other stories that contain bullying, and most of them invoke eye-rolling or disbelief, but that’s not the case with this story. It’s very powerful, and will resonate with those who have experienced it first-hand. It will also give insight to those who haven’t experienced it, and help them understand what someone who is being bullied is going through.

For parents who might be concerned that this isn’t appropriate for teens, I disagree. This is something teens deal with all the time, and a book like this might help them. Instead of eliminating that source, I recommend reading it with them, and then discuss it. Perhaps let them lead the discussion to see what they have gotten from it. I wish I’d had access to a book like this when I was younger.



Kelly Hashway said...

Sounds pretty good. Thanks, Tabitha.

D.E. Malone said...

I recently came across this title and it sounded interesting. Your review is the deciding factor to get it - will add to my reading list. Thanks for sharing!