Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gabi, A Girl In Pieces

I booktalked this to a teen who came to my Hot Cocoa and Book Chat program last week, and she said, "Wow.  That's, like, my life."

BINGO.  We have a winner.

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces isn't going to make the Goodreads Fangirl Cover Squeal List. Or is it Cover Lust?  I don't know, except that it usually involves a lot of frantic gifs that make my eyes want to die. It's kind of a messy cover, because (dude, watch out, metaphor coming!!!) life is messy.  Gabriella Hernandez's life is super messy.  Her dad's addicted to meth, her tía Bertha has embraced a strict religion to atone for her younger years of riding in cars with boys and possibly being a witch, and her best friend, Cindy, just told Gabi that she's pregnant.  Oh, and Gabi's other best friend, Sebastian, came out as gay, which shocked precisely zero of his friends but got him kicked out of his own house.

Plus, Gabi's never been kissed, never had sex, and has a crazy obsession with beef jerky.  All these points relate to her "fatness."  Gabi describes herself as fat, but really without any malice.  It's an adjective: "I am fat," just like "I am tall" or "I am flexible."  Yeah, so she does eat her feelings, but the girl also loves some most excellent Mexican food (like, the legit stuff made out of tongues and hooves and stuff) and takes joy in the simple act of eating.  I never, not once, got from the author that Gabi was "bad" for loving food, or that she was unlovable for being fat.  Girlfriend had dudes falling all over her, probably because she's smart and funny.  We don't really know exactly what Gabi looks like except that her skin is pretty pale, so much so that her "Mexicanness" is questioned.  Even her family worries that she's becoming too gringa.  Ay.  But none of that matters, because Gabi is also a kick-butt poet and all around creative volcano of awesome.

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces follows Gabi's life through her pretty epic senior year of high school.  There's babies, death, more babies, boyfriend drama, rape, and lots and lots and lots of slut-shaming, with Gabi fighting back against cultural and societal stigmas.  Her family always tells her, "Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas" ("Eyes open, legs shut.") because obviously girls who get raped or get pregnant were "asking for it."  Gabi's 'zine, which appears near the end of the book, is her riff on the female body.  She points out how all of the female body parts have been objectified or labeled as "dirty," when really they're just parts of our body and not inherently bad.

This book is an experience that you need to have.  Like, right now.  Preferably you've already read it and realized how unbelievably awesome it is.  If not, run, don't walk (and if you can't run, drive or take some sort of public transportation--but for the love of Cthulhu please don't hitchhike!) to your closest library or bookstore and GET THIS BOOK.  Then, when you have it between your trembling, eager fingers, READ THIS BOOK.  Then, like me, you will probably have to ORDER MEXICAN FOOD (note: do this only if you've got a taquería auténtica in your city--Taco Bell is no bueno and also will make your intestines fall out).

If #WeNeedDiverseBooks needs a book mascot, this is pretty much it for YA literature.  I kind of wish I were an octopus with opposable thumbs because then I could give this eight thumbs up.  Two will have to suffice.

Also, I now have to try Flamin' Hot Cheetos with Tapatío sauce ... because that just sounds amazing.

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