Iveliz Explains It All

Random. Sept. 2022. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593563977.
Gr 6-10–Arango’s novel in verse captures all the angst and awkwardness of being a middle school student and intersects that with tremendous grief, trauma, and the realities of living with with mental health issues. Iveliz is struggling with the loss of her father, her Puerto Rican grandmother’s worsening Alzheimer’s, and friendship issues. She explores these worries through her poetry journal with honesty and vulnerability. Iveliz has a very clear sense of right and wrong, but often wrestles with how to speak up about the wrongs that she experiences from bullies and within her family. Readers take this journey with Iveliz, learning positive coping strategies to deal with explosive anger, forgiveness of one’s self and of others, bullying, and toxic family dynamics. This powerful, realistic novel also unravels the cultural tensions that sometimes exist between the elder and younger generations. Iveliz is empowered and moves towards healing with a combination of mental health services and medication, even though her grandmother minimizes the genuine need for both. Arango does not leave this cultural stone unturned, but drives the characters to confront this generational rift. By doing so, she makes Iveliz’s journey towards healing vibrate with heroism. The protagonist opens herself up to the help she needs and forges healthy boundaries with friends and family.
VERDICT In this poignant debut novel in verse, Arango offers a character with heart, whom readers will be rooting for and whose story will resonate with them. A compassionate, stirring story that readers will not forget.

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