There are some books that combine hilarity and painful truths in smooth and flawless ways. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, is one of them. This book was the perfect belend of wry humor mixed with harsh realities of the real world we all inhabit.
Gabi is about a Hispanic senior in high-school struggling with body-image issues and being overweight, as well as having an overprotective mother and a meth-addict for a father. She's also trying to help her two best friends, one a soon-to-be teen mother, the other a boy kicked out of his parents' house for being gay. Gabi also lives in a community that is almost entirely Hispanic, and you see through her eyes what growing up as part of a very Hispanic culture is like.
This book was stunningly real. It showed the hardest struggles of high school, as well as the simpler ones. Quintero showcased everything a teen might possibly go through in high school--from facing bullies, teachers, and detention, to deeper issues like when someone you love is addicted to drugs, dealing with an unwanted teen pregnancy, and embracing your own sexuality, even if others won't accept you. You don't really see a lot of writers nowadays that really try to tackle topics like these, and I'm glad that it was Quintero who decided to. She made her characters sound normal and approachable, in a way that a lot of young people can relate to. It's important for middle schoolers and even those in the younger years of high school to know about things they might run into, and if they can't see it in a way that's familiar to them, there's no point even trying to get through to them.
Gabi also hit upon some issues that girls are faced with daily. Gabi's mother is always telling her to be careful around boys, endlessly reminding her with the phrase "ojos abiertos, piernas cerrados." Eyes open, legs closed. Gabi helps two pregnant girls in her school. One gets an abortion, one does not. The problem is that they are both terrified about what everyone will say once they find out about their pregnancy, or what they will say if they do have an abortion. The fact that they may be called a "slut" or a "baby-killer". Here's an excerpt.
...Everywhere I looked, wherever there were couples or pregnant teens, I would wonder if it was consensual. Because of our idea of how good girls behave and how bad girls behave, many girls are too afraid or ashamed to speak up. Afraid of what everyone would say about them, afraid of being called liars, sluts, or ofrecidas. This is what Cindy and Georgina and my mom have taught me.
The fact that girls are too afraid to speak up if something like this happens is only one of the main points of this book, and there are many other tough topics tackled in Gabi. Look for this book in September from Cinco Puntos Press!