Medina, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2013. 978-0763658595. 272 p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.
The title and opening line of this gritty realistic fiction will easily encourage students to pick up the novel, but the engrossing story will not make it easy to put it down. Author Meg Medina has written a gripping account of one girl’s struggle with bullying in an urban high school. Piddy Sanchez is in her tenth grade year at a new school after her mother finally realized her dream to move to a nicer (less-rundown) apartment. Raised by a single mother, Piddy knows very little about her father, a fact which comes up frequently in conversations with her mother, but the focus of the story is Piddy’s experience at her new school. She is quickly blindsided by a classmate yelling at her, “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass!” She does not, however, know who Yaqui is or why she has become the target of Yaqui’s ire. Darlene, one nosy student who seems to know everything, tells Piddy that Yaqui and some of the other Latino girls think that Piddy, who is Latino but does not “look” the part, sways her hips while she walks to attract all of the boys in school, Yaqui’s boyfriend included. Piddy quickly becomes the target of numerous attacks by Yaqui, which range from lunchroom encounters to physical attacks. Piddy chooses not to confide in her mother. Instead, she begins missing school, trying to get her mother’s best friend Lila to lie about her whereabouts and spending days with a boy from her former neighborhood. The themes of bullying, identity, acceptance, and growing up are all illustrated clearly and realistically through Piddy and her experiences. This novel will have you wondering how many students have experiences like Piddy’s, and wondering how we can make school a safer place for all students.
Realistic Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School
I was completely engrossed while reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass. I do not usually gravitate towards urban fiction, but in this case I was glad that I did. I recently spent time in various classrooms book talking about books with a bullying theme, and this title was high on my list to share with students. Even though I am in a suburban school district, many students will still identify with Piddy and her struggles throughout the novel. Medina has a simple writing style that evokes the voice of a young teen unable to tell her mother exactly what is going on at school.
With that being said, our Book Club selection for February will be the recent debut title Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, which I chose over Yaqui Delgado simply because I believe that my students will relate more to the characters and the style of bullying being highlighted in Reconstructing Amelia. Even though the main characters in each novel are fairly similar (both live in New York City, both are being raised by single mothers who work long hours), the setting and cultural backgrounds could not be more different. Piddy lives in a low-income area and goes to a rough public school, while Amelia lives in a lovely brownstone and attends an expensive prep school. I enjoyed each title and the themes reflected in both, but as my goal is to elicit discussions on bullying in our own school, Reconstructing Amelia will be a better springboard for a dialogue on issues occurring in our student body. I hope to have a few of our more dedicated readers also read Yaqui Delgado in order to have a discussion comparing and contrasting the two stories and the types of bullying highlighted in each one. For now, I hope that my book talks have encouraged enough students to check out either title and learn more about how we can address bullying in all schools.