Title: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Author: Meg Medina
Publisher & Release Date: Candlewick, March 2013
The Hook: I’ve been hearing awesome things about this book for months.
The Lowdown (from goodreads): “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?”
Overall Impressions: Piddy is floundering when the novel opens – her best friend has moved away, her own mother decided they needed to get out their horrible apartment where the stairs crash, and she’s at a new school she hates with no real friends. She doesn’t need an enemy. She gets one anyway, and Yaqui is tough and implacable. Medina never lets us inside Yaqui’s head – in fact, the two girls hardly speak to each other at all – but she hints at the background that shaped her.
Piddy’s growing desperation to understand why Yaqui has targeted her leads her to try to make herself into Yaqui’s mold, to find an escape in a friend at the old apartment building who has family problems of his own, and to increasing tension with her mother. Piddy’s vulnerable and struggling and doesn’t know where to turn.
Medina doesn’t pull any punches, and the bullying is unrelenting and vicious. No one can offer a perfect solution. Piddy can’t get out by herself, but she is the one who has to decide the course of action.
The Highs: Lila, the family friend who’s effectively Piddy’s aunt. She has such a zest for life and is ferocious as a tiger!
Piddy and her mother have a realistic, prickly relationship. The forbidden subject of Piddy’s father, her mother’s desires for Piddy to have a proper life and Piddy’s own dreams for her future have led to understandable walls between them, not helped by Piddy’s desire to hide her school problems from her mother. The tension keeps ratcheting up between them until they’re finally honest with each other. And by being honest with Piddy, her mother also starts re-establishing community ties.
The various characters who realize that the solution for one person is not necessarily the correct solution for another. I know, vague, but I found that extremely satisfying and a sign of the characters maturing.
Medina’s description of the hair salon where Lila and Piddy work – I loved the buzz of the community hub, the ladies getting pampered, catching up (and commenting) on each others’ lives, and how they’re ready to stand with each other. It’s such a striking contrast to Yaqui and her gang of friends.
Buzzkills (possible triggers): I am serious about Medina not pulling punches, and – highlight to read the spoiler – there’s an ugly video that plays an important role in the story.
The Source: Public library ebook
Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a glamorous makeover was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.