"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Gabi, a Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero is muy bien

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero is just about as kick-ass, no-holds-barred book as you will ever find. It is smart and sassy and touching and sad all rolled together in one book. It made me squirm, and sigh at the same time. I was was uncomfortable and yet comforted reading it.

In Gabi, A Girl in Pieces Quintero creates a flawed character who is making her way in the world as best she can. Gabi is an overweight high school senior who dreams of dating popular boys and going to college. But her life is so full of pitholes it is amazing she can even get up in the morning. Her father is a drug addict who moves in and out of her life. She hates and loves him in equal measure. Her mother does her best to keep the household together but holds Gabi and her brother to different standards.  While the brother gets off easy for even delinquent behavior, Gabi gets blamed for things she didn't do. One of her best friends is raped and the other, Sebastian, gets kicked out of his house when he tells his parents he is gay. And, to make matters more confusing, there are boys paying attention to Gabi and there is the blossoming awareness of sexuality. While we see the year-in-the-life of Gabi, we also witness her growth right up to the point where she can finally stand up for herself and we know she will be able to make it on her own in college.

Gabi wants to be a writer and her writing talents are nurtured by her creative writing teacher who encourages Gabi to write poetry and perform it in local coffee houses. The excerpts below are just samples of the marvelous way that Quintero lets us know her character, through her poetry.  In the first excerpt, Gabi writes about what it was like having a grandmother with Alzheimer's disease. In the second, she explores her feelings about her father and his addiction. Through poetry Gabi finds her voice.


When your grandmother forgets
she will forget all about you
and God.
She will forget how to knit
how to make tortillas
or why she exists.

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....

An occurrence
occupies a space
between thoughts
lies prostrate professing something
strange gurgle underground
in a wasteland
of waiting
twiddling thumbs
twiddle dee twiddle dee
and tapping fingers
tappity tappity tappity
waiting for his collapse

But you don't know my dad.

Another school assignment for Gabi involved creating a personal zine. I had to look up what that word even meant. Zines are "most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier". (Wikipedia) Gabi's zine had to do with being a woman and how one often feels like like person in pieces.  Hence, the title of the book and the odd cover art. As I read the zine I squirmed a bit.  The publication and drawings were very frank and straightforward. I wondered what male readers would do with the information.  A question worth exploring with my male readers.

Page one from Gabi's zine.
With this first novel, Quintero excels at presenting a life that is simultaneously messy and hopeful. Readers won't soon forget Gabi, a young woman coming into her own in the face of intense pressure from her family, culture and society to fit someone else's idea of what it means to be a "good" girl. A fresh, authentic and honest exploration of contemporary Latina identity. (Kirkus Reviews, Starred)
With Gabi, a Girl in Pieces Quintero is a shoo-in to win the Pura Belpre Award for books by Latino authors. I also predict that she will get a look from the Morris Award committee for debut authors. I suspect that Gabi is good enough to even get a nod from the Printz committee. Guess you can tell that I am a fan.


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