To be blunt, it’s an essential because teens read it. They identify with it. And they check it out over and over and over again.
Since we don’t have a formal teen desk at my library where I can keep tabs on book requests, one of my favorite ways to track a book’s popularity is by asking myself, “When did I last see this on the shelf?” If I can’t remember, that’s a great thing. I usually go check to make sure the book isn’t missing, but even that can be a good thing. A lot of teen books that talk about the issues they face everyday have stayed with the teens who need them the most.
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero is one of my top teen books ever. It is so wonderful in every way imaginable. I knew as soon as I finished it that this book was something very, very special. I had to booktalk it to some teens who attended a (completely unrelated) book discussion program.
Both girls were Latina and in high school. I mentioned that I had read this book lately about a girl named Gabi. I said that it was about her senior year of high school. Gabi acknowledges that she’s fat, but she also loves food and thinks that she is pretty freaking awesome as she is. But Senior year isn’t starting out the way she thought. One of her best friends, Sebastian, comes out as gay to his family, and they kick him out. Her other best friend, Cindy, reveals that she’s pregnant. On top of that, Gabi’s dad is a meth addict and her mom finds out she’s pregnant.
One girl stopped me and said–“Wait, where is this book? THIS IS MY LIFE! I NEED THIS BOOK!” And yes, there was flailing.
There you have it. That’s the opinion I truly care about. That’s the excitement that matters to me. Teen excitement. Teen buy-in. Not blogger buy-in or author support or publisher hype. I want teens, by their actions and their words, to show me which books they love.
Gabi’s voice is so completely authentic that it’s a little scary. She’s extremely candid, and will discuss anything with you, the reader. Like when she gets the runs from eating too many hot wings, or the siren song of carne asada, or what her first time having sex was like (hint: not perfect). Quintero incorporates poetry, lists, and even a ‘zine into Gabi’s journal.
Although Gabi describes herself as fat, it’s not with malice. It’s like when you say “I am short” or “I have brown eyes” or “I have freckles.” It’s a descriptor, not a diss.
Quintero’s book is a perfect mirror and window. It is brash and hilarious and sad and utterly, completely essential for your collection.