A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Erika L. Sanchez's I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is the story of Julia Reyes, a smart, brash, and rebellious teen who lives in a gritty Chicago neighborhood with her parents and her stay-at-home sister, Olga, who never gives her parents any trouble. But after Olga is killed in an accident, Julia discovers that her sister may not have been as saintly as everyone believed. As Julia tries to uncovers her sister's secrets, she also discovers the secrets that have made her parents so fearful of Julia building a different life for herself. There's profanity (including "f--k," and "s--t"), and a girl has sex, but it's not described in explicit detail. Violence includes a gun battle between drug dealers in Mexico and the slaughter of a pig described in some detail and mention that a woman was raped. People die in the desert while illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, a teen is beaten for being gay, and a character attempts suicide. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a 2017 National Book Award nominee.
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What's the story?
In I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER, Julia Reyes lives with her parents and older sister, Olga, in a Chicago neighborhood filled with graffiti, gangs, and cockroaches. Her parents, who are both undocumented, work long, hard hours to provide as best they can for the family. For Julia's mother, Olga is the perfect Mexican daughter. She still lives at home, dresses modestly, has a respectable job, and doesn't date. In stark contrast, Julia is rebellious and often lashes out at her overprotective parents, who she feels are not supportive of her dreams of going to college in New York City. She's almost estranged from her mother, who wants to constantly know where Julia's going and what she'll be doing. After Olga is hit and killed by a truck, Julia discovers sexy underwear and the key to a Chicago hotel room among her sister's belongings. Olga, it seems, had a secret life. As Julia begins to uncover Olga's secrets, her own life takes some equally dramatic turns. She meets her first boyfriend, who's wealthy and white, her parents send her to stay with family in Mexico, hoping her behavior will change, and she battles anxiety and depression.
Is it any good?
Determined and sometimes enraging Latina teen comes of age in a story filled with shocking discoveries, family conflicts, long-buried secrets, rebellion, and reconciliation. Readers may have varied reactions to the character of Julia. For many, she'll be a role model for overcoming the odds and going after your dreams. For others, her often judgmental and dismissive attitude (even toward things like the quinceañera that means so much to her mother) may well be a turnoff.
While the main storyline is extremely strong and compelling, the novel has enough subplots (Julia's wealthy white boyfriend, being forced to leave school for a time and live with family in Mexico, a gay friend, mental health issues) that some readers may have a hard time keeping track of where the story is going.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how overprotective Julia's parents are in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. What's a good middle ground between giving teens unlimited freedom and monitoring their every move? Are there times your parents seem overprotective?
What cultural traditions do you celebrate in your family? Why do you think Julia was so resistant to celebrating her quinceañera?
Do you know anyone who's dealing with anxiety or depression? Do they keep this a secret, or are they open about it to their friends? How would students at your school react if they discovered someone had attempted suicide?
- Author: Erika L. Sanchez
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 17, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 344
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: December 8, 2020
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