TITLE: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
AUTHOR: Isabel Quintero
ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: Gabi has a coming of age story in the midst of her culture’s machista mentality.
If Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, and Slammed somehow had a baby this would be it. It has the coming of age story and format from Perks of Being a Wallflower, the adversity and diversity of characters from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, and the importance that poetry plays in characters’ lives from Slammed.
I didn’t expect to like it. In fact I was annoyed by the characters and the path the story was going in the beginning. Everything that was happening at the start was too much too soon. Absolutely everyone had these life altering problems in their lives: Cindy is pregnant, Sebastian comes out to his conservative Latino parents, and Gabi is self-conscience about her body and her meth addict father. If you think any of this is a spoiler, I’m sorry to disappoint, they’re not. All of these big issues happen to occur all at the same time, it’s overwhelming. It’s like those old Degrassi: Next Generation episodes where everyone had a huge problem, not just “I’m failing this class.” But, maybe it’s this reading high I’m in or I was secretly falling in love with the characters before I knew it, but I pulled through and ended up reading most of the book in one day.
There are a number of issues you can choose to talk about with this novel. Seriously choose any; teen pregnancy, religion, addiction, bullying, homophobia, identity, different cultures and so on. But, I’m only going to talk mostly about one.
One of the recurring themes in the story is the abundance of machismo in Mexican / Latino culture. It’s absolutely ridiculous and annoying, but unfortunately very true. Gabi lives in a world where women are meant to be a delicate beautiful white flowers, symbols of purity and all that is good. Her mother constantly berates her and reminds her to be a good daughter who will stay home but also wants her to be independent, two very different things that Gabi must somehow reconcile with. Meanwhile, her irresponsible baby brother is left to do anything he wants. It’s just so aggravating and absurd and really makes me mad!
Thankfully, Gabi somehow finds a way to accept it while also making a change along the way.
Not only that, but this culture makes being a woman almost a bad thing. And if you’re a woman who happens to like sex, you’re labeled as the devil. It’s ridiculous. What’s worse is that the women in Gabi’s life seem to believe all this nonsense and are passing it down to her. Somehow, they forget what it’s like to be a teenager and accept that somehow men have no fault but woman are responsible for everything. Again, it drives me insane!
Luckily, Gabi doesn’t absorb it all and learns to make her own decisions.
As for Gabi’s character I’m not going to lie and say I loved her from the start, because I thought she was really annoying. I hated that she was absorbing all this toxic comments about her and accepting them as fact and putting herself down. I feel like she let herself be the stereotypical fat girl. It bothered me that she never stops talking about food. I’m sure she had more important things to talk about than how spicy chicken wings are. But, I also have to admit that I fell in love with her character by the end of the story.
As for the writing, I have my pros and cons. For one, I did not love the diary format because I feel like something is missing. I don’t get to see how characters actually react or interact with each other, the only thing I have to judge is from Gabi’s perspective. On the other hand, we get to see her poetry and other things that show her growth as a character.
There are so many topics to talk about with this story, but if you like a journey of self-acceptance and growing up in the midst of chaos, then pick this book up now!