I have always been curious about high school and social media. I was already leaving college when Facebook and MySpace were on the cusp. Personally, I didn’t like high school. I imagine adding Facebook to my experience and I think the pictures, the tagging, and the friend lists would have enhanced an already bad experience. It is too much exposure for a time myriad with uncertainty.
This is why I was curious about “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.” I have been on a YA kick lately, and I love it when a new story finds you and surprises you. I also thought Meg Medina’s choice of title was catching and clever. Because who hasn’t been threatened by some kid in high school or middle school?
Poor Piddy gets threatened during her first month at Daniel Jones High. The instigator is Yaqui, who complains that Piddy has a big ass and shouldn’t be looking at Yaqui’s boyfriend. Of course Piddy has never talked to Yaqui or her boyfriend before. I laughed when I read this, and not at Piddy’s problem. Teenagers are so limited in their thinking. Everything is emotional, any small thing exacerbated into something bigger.
Imagine if that little something turns into a gang fight, and imagine if it was recorded and seen on the Internet. Piddy gets beat up and her hell is taped and posted on YouTube. The result is so traumatic that Piddy transfers back to her old school. If this sounds gritty, it is.
But there were also glimmers of bright light. I loved the Manhattan trip Piddy takes with Joey Halper after her assault. Even if she is skipping school, who wouldn’t after what she has been through? Joey has been her friend forever and would know more than anyone about being beaten down. Moments between them were among my favorite in the book.
I think Piddy made a wise choice to transfer schools soon after the fight. She knew it was the right choice for her at the time, even if people around her disagreed. Life is full of tough decisions, and Piddy and Joey had to learn early about some things ending up unfair. It happens in high school and it happens in life.
Things end comfortably when Piddy later gets accepted to the magnet science school she applied for. She deserves it, even though I think it was less important than her overcoming trauma. Which leaves me to my final question that I wish Medina could have answered: What happens to Piddy’s Ma?
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? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is. (source)
This book definitely deserves all the praise it's gotten. It's one of the real-est YA novels I think I've ever read. It's a great depiction of bullying, and I love the concentration on female relationships (loving and antagonistic).
I also love the fact that the book says "let's make it better" (vs "it gets better). I read it so quickly, I think I'll definitely need to reread to get all my thoughts together. But the only thing I didn't like on this reading was a bit of bad basketball writing (how can you tell what position someone's playing on offense when they're on defense?).