It's time for a quick wrap-up of our most recent Read With Us book group selection . . . I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez.
It's also Thursday . . . which means Three on Thursday over on Carole's blog . . . and I'm challenging myself to see if I can get a 2-fer here. (Can I do it? Can I wrap up our book discussion AND do a Three on Thursday post? You be the judge!)
First, the housekeeping.
We tried something a little different with the discussion portion of the book this time. Instead of stretching the discussion over three weeks, with each of us hosting the discussion on successive weeks, this time around we opted to discuss the book on one particular day, with each of us posting a different discussion question on our blogs. Generally, we think this worked pretty well, and we're planning to continue this strategy with our next book.
We also planned to host a Zoom book discussion - and we even contacted the author to see if she'd be interested in joining us. You'll notice that I'm using the past tense here: planned. We think a Zoom book discussion would be great - and a lot of fun - and I'm sure we'll try it in the future. We decided to let it go this time, though. (One of us really doesn't need One. More. Thing. to deal with right now.) We haven't heard back from the author yet (and it's been awhile, so we're thinking we won't). If we do, though, and if she's willing to join us, we may just host a "pop-up" Zoom discussion for this book at some future date.
Second, the book itself.
While we didn't all love the book, most of us ended up liking it . . . more than we expected to. Generally, we found it to be a well-written coming-of-age story. Yes, the main character and narrator (Julia) was angry and abrasive, which made it hard for many of us to be completely sympathetic, but she also had to straddle two very different cultures and manage competing sets of expectations. There was an excellent discussion over on Bonny's blog about whether or not Julia's parents had realistic expectations of their daughters. I think Becky summed it up perfectly when she pointed out that "fears of immigrant families attempting to raise children in what must seem a thoroughly alien and permissive society" drove Julia's mother's actions. You can follow the Bonny's discussion here.
Carole's blog featured a good discussion of the book's setting (the book is mostly set in Chicago, but there is a segment set in a Mexican village when Julia returns for a visit), which most of us felt was well done and believable. Many readers felt Julia's visit to Mexico was unrealistic and they questioned that aspect of the storyline. For me, I'm just going to say that Julia's trip to visit her family in Mexico was vital for her personal growth, and a necessary vehicle for her to understand herself and her family better. Sure. It was perhaps a little unrealistic, but this is YA, and as Margene pointed out: "It’s part of a YA coming of age story. The reader needs to know Julia’s family roots and why there were expectations for her to be a perfect Mexican daughter, not an American. Her parents were not fully realized and this was a good device to share their stories." You can follow Carole's discussion here.
We talked issues in my blog discussion, where we were all in agreement that there were a LOT of serious social issues packed into this book. Some readers felt it was maybe too much - and maybe too dark - for the intended audience, while others felt it was appropriate. Sarah made an excellent point: "Something I've noticed about YA fiction now compared to the YA fiction I read when I was a young adult is that it's much more realistic. Some may say there were too many social issues in Julia's life, but the reality is that young adults today are dealing with those issues. I remember many of the books I read as a teenager glossing over those issues, as if they didn't exist. While I didn't love this book, it rang very true for me in this respect." Most of us agreed with Sarah -- that the issues Julia was dealing with were likely representative of what a young, smart, grieving first generation immigrant teen might be struggling with in her day-to-day life. You can follow my discussion here.
Overall, most of us thought the book was a good representation of YA literature -- that it was YA done well, with universal themes, an authentic voice, and a well-written story. Many of us didn’t expect to like the book -- but ended up thinking it was . . . pretty good. If you didn't have a chance to read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter with us, you may want to check it out. It's a critically-acclaimed YA selection filled with family conflicts, long-held secrets, surprising discoveries, rebellion, and - ultimately - reconciliation.
Third, the drumroll!
Congratulations to Allison (otherwise known as @kwizgiver over on Instagram, and blogging at What If This Is As Good As It Gets), the winner of this round's exciting prize package!
Thanks so much to all of you for reading with us!
And STAY TUNED for the big announcement of our next Read With Us book selection . . . coming to a blog near you on Tuesday! (Hint: It's perfect for summer reading!)