Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gabi A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi starts keeping a diary the summer before her senior year of high school.  She writes about her life.  Her best friend Cindy, who finds out she's pregnant, her father and his meth habit, her mother who worries that Gabi's too fat, her friend Sebastian who's just come out, the boys Gabi has crushes on, and the poetry class she is coming to love.

It sounds like every single Issue Storyline is in this book.  And I guess it is.  But it worked, so, so well.  It did not feel like an after school special.  It felt heartbreakingly realistic.  This was Gabi's daily life.  This is what she is surrounded by in her community.

Gabi is hysterical.  She's sassy and vulgar and completely open.  She does not mince words.  She's full of self-doubt like any teenage girl, but also has a wonderful spirit.  She is empowered.  And she only becomes more so. 

Her mother is constantly telling her she's too fat and to lose weight.  No one will ever love her when she's fat.  Gabi thinks about this sometime.  She'd like to lose weight and be skinny and, in her mind (and her mother's), prettier.  But it's also clearly not the most important thing to her.  Gabi thinks on it, certainly, but she does not let it define her, despite her mother.  The other physical aspect Gabi thinks about is her skin color.  She's light skinned, and people sometimes don't know she's Mexican.  Some people think she doesn't look Mexican enough.  It frustrates her and makes her angry.

Gabi has two great friends who are also going through some tough issues.  Cindy is pregnant and is going to keep the baby.  Sebastian has been kicked out of his house after coming out to his parents.  Gabi tries to be a good, supportive friend, even though she doesn't always agree with their actions.

The saddest part of the story, I thought, was Gabi's father.  He's a meth addict, and is constantly disappearing for weeks or months on end.  Gabi is afraid he'll die while he's out on one of his binges and they'll never see him again.  She's so angry with him for doing this to their family, but loves him anyway.  She loves her mother, even though sometimes her mother says some really cruel things to her.  She tries to help her little brother, who acts like he's OK, but is feeling so much it's exploding out of him in destructive ways.

All this serious stuff is going on, but they're all still just teenagers, and Gabi wants to find herself a boyfriend.  She's excited to go out on dates and kiss boys.  She makes lots of mistakes, messes things up, tries to fix things.

A definite bonus to this book was that the diary entries were done in a realistic way.  There was no, "I'm writing this while I'm supposedly in the middle of a big dramatic fight with someone."  All the entries are Gabi writing after the fact, telling what happened and reflecting on how she dealt with things and how she feels now.

Gabi is such a wonderful, relatable, joyful character.  Teens will connect with her and care about her and see aspects of their own lives in her stories.  This is definitely a book for older teens, because language and some graphic content.

Really wonderful.  A must read.

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