Meg Medina, Author
Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2013
Awards: 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award; ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults; International Latino Best Books Awards – Young Adult Fiction; and Kirkus Reviews Best Books for 2013
Suitable for Ages: 14-17
Themes: New Girl, Latin Americans, Bullying, High School, Family Relationships, Friendships
Book Jacket Synopsis: “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.” That’s what some girl tells Piddy Sanchez one morning before school. Too bad Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is, let alone what she’s done to piss her off. All Piddy knows is that Yaqui hates her — and she better watch her back because Yaqui isn’t kidding around.
At first Piddy just focuses on 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 and running away from her problems?
Why I like this book:
- Meg Medina focuses on the paralyzing impact of bullying in this raw, emotional and honest novel. The theme is timely and based on the author’s own experience with a bully as a teen, which adds depth and credibility to the story.
- The richly textured Latino story is set in Queens, New York, where Medina grew up. The story is peppered with Spanish expressions, which contributes to the reader’s experience.
- The characters are diverse and memorable. Piddy is an outgoing, smart and attractive Latina girl who wants to be a scientist. Yaqui is a jealous and threatening adversary who hates Piddy simply because she’s the “new” girl at school. Piddy’s Mama is strong and protective. Lila, her Mama’s best friend, is Piddy’s only confidant. She works at the hair salon with Piddy, sells Avon and adds some comic relief.
- Medina’s first-person narrative is extremely effective. The reader feels Piddy’s growing panic as the harassment increases and Yaqui and her gang stalk and close around her. Piddy is trapped and knows that if she tells school authorities or her mama, she will be “digging her grave.” Her grades dive, she isolates herself, skips school and her personality changes.
- The plot is multi-layered, courageous and complicated. Medina delves deeply into the loneliness, fear and trauma of a bullied teen trying to handle the situation alone and the realistic mother-daughter relationship with family secrets. The pacing is fast, engaging and keeps the reader turning pages. There are unexpected surprises and a realistic ending. I had a hard time letting go of the story and characters.
- Older teens will identify with Piddy and relate to the theme and plot. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass belongs in every school library because it is such an excellent work of fiction and a great discussion book.
Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban-American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. She is the 2014 recipient of the Pura Belpré medal and the 2013 CYBILS Fiction winner for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book Tia Isa Wants a Car. Visit Meg Medina at her website.