Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi is smart, strong, loyal, honest, brave and independent. If I could have a daughter, I would want her to be just like this. 

She's got dreams. When she finishes high school she's hoping to get into Berkeley. It's not going to be easy. 

She gets nearly all A's, but math is a challenge. Thankfully, one of her best friends is tutoring her in calculus. And while her family is poor, she's figured how she can get funding through government grants.

Gabi is caught in a chasm between what her Mexican mother defines as being a 'good girl' and accepting and loving herself for who she is. This conflict is compounded by the pervasive social construct, 'boys will be boys', a concept that Gabi questions and challenges. 


3. When a girl says no, you might have to consider your position. I don't think she meant yes. But I'm a girl, so what do I know? But because boys will be boys, you don't really have to think about it.
8. Remember how your mother warned you that boys only want one thing from you? Well, it's not your straight A's or your excellent drawing skills or your extensive knowledge of action films. It's the thing you have guarded (hint: it's between your legs) your whole life from everyone: your cousin who came to stay for two weeks, your strange uncle Tony, that teacher in the 3nd grade-- they were all just boys being boys
9. It's your fault. Even if you're disabled, old or young. You should know better.
10. Boys will be boys.

One of her best friends, Cindy, is dealing with a teen pregnancy. Her other best friend, Sebastian, was kicked out of his house when he informed his parents he was gay. No matter what happens, Gabi is on their side. If you read the book, you'll see that you don't want to mess with anyone Gabi loves. 

Her father is a meth addict. This makes their family life crazy. When he's there, he's unpredictable and unreliable. He's away a lot, but even then, his actions can boomerang back into their lives with devastating impact. Gabi knows it's just a matter of time until he doesn't come home at all. 


Guilt of gluttonous
on corners
corners him.
He evades questioning questions
and dodges disagreements
a refugee in refuge
a reduction of
my father the brave

I don't want to
write this down
or speak it true.

But you don't know my dad

Gabi is attracted to different boys in her class, but worries that she's fat and not loveable. Then when they are attracted to her, she's got to deal with finding someone worthy of her. 

What I liked:

Isabel Quintero's writing is just stunning. At times I had to put this book down. It evoked uncomfortable connections and memories from my own life. Then there are moments that stopped me dead in my tracks. Gabi's poetry especially, left cracks in my heart. 


She will wander the streets
lost in her city.
Her mind will crumble behind her
and you will scramble 
picking up pieces
that she will reject
she does not remember you

The authenticity of Quintero's characters blows my mind. They make mistakes but they have such integrity. The relationships between them are real, true, and so filled with complicated squabbling love. Her relationship with Martin is the kind of relationship I want for all of our children.

This is a feminist novel. It explores male privilege from the perspective of a teenage girl. It grapples with body image and our social ideals of beauty. Gabi's voice is one I've been waiting for, and didn't even know it. Through her analysis of her Mexican heritage I was introduced to new cultural nuances and ways of being and knowing.

Concerns I Have:

I wish that so many boys didn't come across as such jerks. Maybe this is because I'm the mother of two men. My partner and I did our best to raise them to be honourable human beings, just as Martin's father in the book is doing. The thing is, that while men of any age can be unaware of the privilege their gender guarantees, I grapple with the novel's portrayal of so many young men as sexual predators. 

This is a book that I am going to be recommending to all my reading friends. It's a book I'll get as gifts for my beautiful teenaged nieces. If you haven't read it, you really should run out right now to the nearest book store or library and grab yourself a copy.

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