A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
While fictionalized, there's a lot for readers to learn and think about as the characters debate what to write about on their college applications. Do colleges really want to hear about trauma and struggle? Should you use being brown and bilingual and pregnant to give yourself some booster points or do you rely entirely on your academic record? What's the ethical thing to do and what's the thing to do that could change the trajectory of your life?
Your circumstances do not determine what your future can be. The most important thing is to never give up. Believe in yourself and what you can achieve.
Positive Role Models
Belén's life is in turmoil as the story begins. She, her mother, and older sister have been deserted by her father and it looks like she won't graduate and go onto college. "It's not that I can't do it, I just don't want to. Applying to college seems like the largest waste of my time -- if I can't even go to class, how do people expect me to go to college?" But, with help and encouragement from a teacher, her sister, and her friends, she makes the decision not to give up, puts in the work she needs to at school, and ends a destructive relationship. Leti's life at school is full of successes, but her pregnancy has worsened the already volatile relationship with her parents. Her father calls her a disappointment, tells her she's destroying all the work he did to give her the life she has now, and women like her will go to hell. But like Belén, Leti doesn't give up or give in. She stands up to her parents and makes plans for the bright future she's worked so hard to achieve for herself.
Characters are Mexican American, Black, and Salvadoran American. Leti's father rants about things he can't stand (Black people are at the top of his list) and Leti's mother won't let her wear her hair in braids because she looks too "India." Despite this, Leti's parents refuse to believe they could be racist because of all the struggles they faced coming to the US from Mexico. Quentin tells Belén he gets called all kinds of s--t by Mexicans because he's Black. "I think people like Leti's family, like my family sometimes, think people treat us like s--t, so we can't treat other people like s--t. If people discriminate against us, we can't discriminate against anyone else." Alexis' family comes from El Salvador and he's majoring in Latin American Studies to feel closer to his culture. His family is wealthy and he believes the only reason students like Leti and Quentin will get into Berkeley is because of favoritism. Ali is Black and dreams of being enough of a shining star to earn a scholarship to Howard University, a Historically Black College.
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Violence & Scariness
Leti's father has a violent temper and can be verbally and physically abusive. She has a scar over her eyebrow from the time she didn't warm up his food quickly enough, stays late after school to avoid going home, and was yelled at so loudly by her father that neighbors would call the police.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen character watches porn, which leaves her confused -- she notes that the way the men "f--k" the women is "aggressive and uncomfortable" but that she also still sort of wants that. She sometimes masturbates while watching porn, but doesn't feel great about it. Detialed descriptions of touching a penis for the first time, and a teen girl's first unpleasant experience performing oral sex on her boyfriend. After having sex for several months with her boyfriend, a character admits to not enjoying it, and only experiencing guilt.
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Leti's father calls Quentin a "mayate," a black beetle that feeds off animal feces. Belén tells him it's slang in Spanish for the N-word. Leti, Quentin, and Belén learn about the meaning of blanqueamiento ("lightening a race"), the pressure for people to reproduce with white or lighter-skinned people. Characters use a good deal of profanity "f--k," "shit," "a--hole," and "hella."
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Products & Purchases
Characters eat a lot of Wendy's burgers, drink coffee at Starbucks, shop at Home Depot and Ross, and listen to Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross, Beyonce, and Prince. A character's mother works at Office Max.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Belén likes to drink and has orange juice and tequila at a college party where students drink, smoke cigarettes, and pass around a bong. A character is prescribed Zoloft and an adult gets drunk on beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Carolina Ixta's Shut Up, This Is Serious is an unforgettable coming-of-age story told in the voice of Belén Dolores Itzel del Toro, the strong-willed daughter of Mexican immigrants. Belén and her best friend, Leti Barragón, live in a diverse working class neighborhood in Oakland, California. For the friends, their senior year in high school is unfolding in ways they never expected. Leti, an academic over achiever, discovers she's pregnant by the Black boyfriend she's been keeping secret from her racist parents. Belén's grades have become so poor she's is in danger of never graduating and she begins an emotionally empty sexual relationship with an older boy. Both girls will face huge emotional challenges and hard choices as they try to ensure better futures for themselves. The novel has a number of sexually explicit scenes. A girl touches a penis for the first time and describes oral sex. But there are also strong messages about the serious consequences of being a sexually active teen. There's racially charged language (a Black teen is called a "mayate," slang in Spanish for the N-word) and a good deal of profanity ("f--k," "shit," "a--hole," and "hella"). Characters are Mexican American, Black, and Salvadoran American.
Is It Any Good?
This brilliantly written novel has complex characters and powerful storylines about friendship, racism, family, and second chances. The journeys taken by the teen characters in Shut Up, This Is Serious are both inspiring and thought provoking for readers. Belén and Leti's enviable friendship brings a lot of humor and warmth to the heavy topics Carolina Ixta covers, and the teens determination, hard work, and willingness to put pride aside and accept help propels them toward lives of their own making.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.