RC’16: A Book About A Culture You’re Unfamiliar With

Book: Gabi, A Girl In Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
First published: 2014

I wasn’t sure about this one – I think I found it through a list of more diverse books (in terms of author/character) on Tumblr once, and added it to my Goodreads to-read shelf. Then when I was looking for books for this Reading Challenge, I thought, eh, why not?

Summary: Gabi Hernandez is in her final year at high school, and she has to deal with everything life throws at her – friends’ pregnancies, comings out, her dad’s drug addiction, and finding a boyfriend.

“I SWEAR

To learn how to put eyeliner on

To be happy in my skin (whatever that means, but it is being said by all those skinny women on TV who don’t have much skin to begin with, and so they don’t have to worry about how much happiness to fit into their skin, but us fat girls have so much more skin we have to claw and scratch happiness from anywhere we can get it so that we can stuff it into our skin)”

My thoughts: loved this book. I cannot stop gushing about how much I loved it. It was wonderful. Refreshing. Fierce. Gut-wrenchingly sad. Upliftingly joyful. Unapologetic. I’ll say it now: the best book aimed at a teen audience I’ve ever read.

One of the things I loved most was that it had all the tropes of a typical teen book – insecure girl protag, gay best friend, wayward brother, girl looking for boyfriend, girl dealing with parents – but it was so much more, so much bigger and better than limiting itself to those.

Gabi is a fat Mexican girl and that is so important in young people’s literature. All the characters had something wrong in their lives – apart from literally one character who was portrayed as being a douchebag – and it didn’t matter, because they were okay. They were allowed to mess up and make mistakes but also to have fun and have the best times of their lives. It’s so important for young people to see themselves represented in reading. To know that they’re not alone. To know that their voice deserves to be heard. And this is what Gabi, A Girl In Pieces does.

I loved the effortless blend of Spanish and English into the prose – I once saw a comment (I believe praising Jane the Virgin) about how strange it is in TV shows and the like that people who don’t speak English as a first language are shown speaking it all the time, even at home. I guess in some ways I was familiar with the culture – American high school movies are everywhere – but they’re mainly about white, straight, skinny boys and girls.

Basically, I loved this book. It made me giggle and it made me full on sob. Honestly, the plot wasn’t anything particularly original, but that didn’t matter, because it was brought to (real) life by the characters. I’ll be recommending this to everyone. If it makes even one teenage girl, anywhere in the world, love herself a little more, to me that makes it far more revolutionary than anything we’ve seen in a long time.

Thank you, Isabel Quintero.

Rating system:
★☆☆☆☆ = I didn’t like it
★★☆☆☆ = It was okay
★★★☆☆ = I liked it
★★★★☆ = I really enjoyed it
★★★★★ = New favourite book

My rating: ★★★★★

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