River City Reading

Helping readers of literary, contemporary and historical fiction find their next great book.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass - Meg Medina I don't read too much YA, but I stumbled upon Meg Medina's blog when I was looking for authors in the area with upcoming books and it feels like such a happy accident.

Piddy Sanchez doesn't know much about the students at her new school, but she finds out rather quickly that Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. She's not sure why, though she thinks it has something to do with a boy. Soon Yaqui's threat is tumbling through Piddy's life, impacting the relationships she has with her mother, teachers and friends.

First, don't be thrown off by the title. It's strong. Medina mentions in this interview that she began to fight against it because she feared backlash. But the title says so much about what this book is: real, bold and not afraid to lay it all out. What it's not is gratuitous or gimmicky.

As a teacher, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass strikes me as an important novel for several reasons. The interview with Diversity in YA addresses this topic, but the number of titles written by or about Latinos is shockingly small, particularly compared to the number of students reading them. Medina's book works to fill a much needed space in YA literature, both for Latino students seeking a novel that reflects them back and others who can benefit from connecting with a non-white character.

The overreaching theme of bullying is addressed perfectly. So often, fictionalized bullies are characterized by constant daily harassment of their victims, when in reality there are times that a dominant presence and a few serious actions can be much more intimidating. It was refreshing to see a novel that showed a different type of bullying. I don't want to spoil the particular details, but I do feel that it's important to share the final outcome, because it's what makes this book necessary for teen readers.

Piddy's final encounter with Yaqui is very real and very current. It's something that many teenagers, parents and schools are dealing with on a regular basis, but is so severe that many wind up afraid to admit to for fear of repercussion. In Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, Medina traces Piddy's path through denial to eventually sharing what happened with school leaders. She is not a narc. She is not a snitch.

I'm sure principals will look at library requests, see a book titled Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and immediately want to say no - but that would be a mistake. Schools should be thanking Meg Medina for writing this culturally rich, socially relevant novel that could help them a dozen times more than the anti-bullying posters plastered in the hallways.

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