I’m sorry that a book like Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass needs to be written, and even more sorry that it needs to be read. I’m pleased that Meg Medina has written it so well.
Bullying is not new, but methods have become more sophisticated. Junior high boys threw rocks at me as I walked home on a Mississippi gravel road. My crime was being a nerd.
Piddy, short for Piedad, isn’t quite sure what her crime is with Yaqui, nor does it ever become completely clear – could be that Yaqui’s boy friend has given her the eye or could be her nerdiness. Typically for bullies, the explanation may have little to do with the actual victim, if a reason exists. The victim may just be available. Piddy is torn, as the victim often is, between the two evils of living with the harassment or becoming a “narc” or tattletale. As the adult reader, I kept wanting to insist that she report Yaqui and her gang, only to remember that I never told on the rock-throwers.
There were times when the story became so edgy and raw that I wanted to leave it and go away, but concern for Piddy drew me back to the next page and the next. Secondary character Lila, her mother’s best friend, is well drawn and reminded me of a favorite quote from a teacher’s conference years ago. “Every young person needs somebody who believes in them, and it doesn’t have to be a parent.” Ultimately, Lila’s words help Piddy understand her mother’s conflicted sacrifices for her and see herself as someone of value.
My favorite quote from the book leads to the ultimately satisfying ending as Piddy says, “Now it’s time to confront her – not in a school yard but in a way that makes sense to me. No matter how she fights, I’ll make sure I win in the way that matters most.”
This review is of an advance reading copy. The official release date is tomorrow, March 26. Even though my score reads twice sorry to once pleased, pleased wins out. In a book that needed to be written and needs to be read, Meg creates Piddy, a girl that the reader alternately wants to protect or to shake some sense into, and moves from the issue of bullying to making the matter personal.
*For fun and lighter fare, you might also read Meg’s picture book that won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, Tia Isa Wants a Car.