Gabi: A Girl in Pieces

378p. Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781935955948; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781935955955; ebk. $11.95. ISBN 9781935955962. LC 2014007658.
Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez has a lot to deal with during her senior year. Her best friend Cindy is pregnant; her other best friend Sebastian just got kicked out of his house for coming out to his strict parents; her meth addict dad is trying to quit, again; and her super religious Tía Bertha is constantly putting a damper on Gabi's love life. In lyrical diary entries peppered with the burgeoning poet's writing, Spanglish, and phone conversations, Quintero gives voice to a complex, not always likable but totally believable teen who struggles to figure out her own place in the world. Believing she's not Mexican enough for her family and not white enough for Berkeley, Gabi still meets every challenge head-on with vulgar humor and raw honesty. In moments, the diary format may come across as clunky, but the choppy delivery feels purposeful. While the narrative is chock-full of issues, they never bog down the story, interwoven with the usual teen trials, from underwhelming first dates to an unabashed treatment of sex, religion, and family strife. The teen isn't all snark; there's still a naiveté about whether her father will ever kick his addiction to meth, especially evident in her heartfelt letters to him. When tragedy strikes, readers will mourn with Gabi and connect with her fears about college acceptance and her first sexual experience. A refreshing take on slut- and fat-shaming, Quintero's work ranks with Meg Medina's Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013) and Junot Diaz's Drown (Riverhead, 1996) as a coming-of-age novel with Latino protagonists.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
A stand-out debut novel that features a fresh perspective on the high drama of senior year. From the first paragraph, Gabi’s remarkable voice is charged with ruthless honesty and humor: “My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin.” Gabi employs the same compellingly candid tone for everything and everyone—including herself. The bluntness of her language, however, is often leavened by her endearing vulnerability and poignant concern for troubled friends and family. Readers seeking diversity and cross-cultural themes will find them here. Gabi’s journal is peppered with Spanish phrases and her Mexican American family plays a major role in her life, even when Gabi rebels against her mother’s traditionalist views on dating, sex, and underwear fashion. The last year of high school is eventful and life-changing for Gabi. She finds her first boyfriend(s), her best friend becomes pregnant, her other best friend comes out of the closet, and her estranged father dies from a drug overdose. Isabel Quintero handles these and other striking developments with uncommon grace, capturing the emotional intensity of adolescence without letting melodrama weigh down the story. Ultimately, Gabi not only makes it through her senior year but thrives because of it, and the hopeful conclusion to her story feels stirring and well earned.
Gabi, a light-skinned Hispanic girl who is maybe a little bit too curvy, is no stranger to trouble. Her father is a meth addict, her brother's a budding graffiti artist, her best friend's pregnant, and another friend is homeless after coming out to his father. Blisteringly honest diary entries mix with poetry to create a beautifully distinct and powerful voice.

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