Codes for Reviews

First Initial (Overall Rating):
E = Exceptional
VG = Very Good
G = Good
F = Fair
NR = Not Recommended

Second Initital (Reading Level):
A = Average Reading Level
E = Easy
M = Mature

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Written by Erika L. Sanchez
Read by Kyla Garcia
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
ISBN: 1524700487

A riveting and rambunctious read that tugs all the right heartstrings unabashedly and without hesitance. Erika L. Sanchez has tapped into a rich reservoir of relatable and poignant characters. Characters that are flawed, vulnerable, and muster the courage to grow and change into better people by book’s end. This is Young Adult fare that will have mass appeal and manage to get you flipping fervently page by page and rooting for our young female protagonist.

We follow teenage Julia as she navigates the rigors and pitfalls of growing up in a strict Mexican-American household that upholds familial responsibility supreme. But Julia has an independent streak that runs directly counter to that value and the friction between her and her mother is fraying her thin. To compound her frustrations, Julia suffers the slings and arrows of overcoming daily stereotypes. She yearns for more. The book is incredibly layered as it explores themes of self-identity, LGBTQ discrimination, loss and grief, and teen mental illness. All very sensitive issues that are dealt with an appropriate amount of levity and gravity somehow.

Julia carries this YA novel single-handedly. Her voice is authentic and you’re immediately yanked into her trials and tribulations from the first chapter. Julia is a firebrand but also has a sensitivity to her. A febrile fragility. A complex character study that confounds and compels. And the performance of Kyla Garcia percolates with flair. From the farcical to the solemn, every tone and idiosyncrasy is captured with gusto. It’s a myriad of fleshed out and memorable secondary characters to help prop up our protagonist. From the ever-kvetching mother to the sassy and sometimes absurd circle of friends. Every voice is singular and unique in its delivery. Top marks.

It’s so much beyond just a coming-of-age tale. It’s a modern day bildungsroman in the vein of Jane Eyre. Just angrier and more relevant to today’s diverse audiences. There’s a smidge of Catcher in the Rye in there too. A voice of cynicism that is just a disguised cry for help. So there’s sincerity in that sardonic tone. The struggles and challenges of growing up are timeless. And the writer here manages to carry on this rich literary tradition while also melding other aspects of popular genres such as mystery, social critique, and race politics. It’s an ambitious and culturally-timely piece. And a successful one that merits a look-thru.

A wholehearted recommend. Read and be ravished by the book’s insights and cultural shrewdness. 

Tommy Bui, Inglewood Public Library

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