Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

Candlewick. Apr. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763690502.
Gr 4-7–Now in seventh grade, Merci Suárez finds that a new school year means new responsibilities and challenges. Merci has been enlisted to work in the school store alongside her classmate Wilson, who she might have a crush on, and is still at odds with classmate Edna, who is planning the Heart Ball and maybe stealing one of Merci’s best friends. At home, Merci feels unprepared for the changes in her family: Her grandfather’s Alzheimer’s is worsening, and Tía Inez has started dating. At heart, Merci remains true to the character readers met in Merci Suárez Changes Gears and has grown alongside her readership. However, seventh grade Merci is not without her flaws. She and Edna still don’t get along, and she spies on Tía Inez even when she isn’t supposed to. When Merci is roped into running a photography booth at the Heart Ball and the equipment breaks, she tries to solve the problem herself instead of telling an adult. The struggles with friendships, responsibility, school, crushes, and jealousy that Merci and her friends face will strike a chord with many readers. A subplot about Tía Inez keeping dance classes alive for neighborhood kids who have nowhere to go after school serves as a subtle reminder of Merci’s Cuban American heritage and the socioeconomic status of families in Merci’s neighborhood versus at school. The plot moves along at a consistent and page-turning pace, and as usual Medina’s characters are excellently written and developed. Medina also touches on racism and how shared cultural heritage can bring people together unexpectedly.
VERDICT Fans of Merci Suárez Changes Gears will love watching how Merci and those around her grow. This sequel doesn’t disappoint and is an essential purchase for all collections.

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