I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Digital Audiobook narrated by Kyla Garcia
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 17, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 344 pages or 9 hours, 41 minutes
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Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
I didn’t add this book to my TBR for the longest time.
I dunno, it just didn’t seem like I would like it? I finally put it on my TBR earlier this year, and I wasn’t in a rush to get to it, except that Dani from Perspective of a Writer reached out to do a buddy read, and this was one of the books she offered to choose from.
So, I figured – eh, why not?
As I turns out, I really appreciated I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. There’s a lot going on in this book that it seems to casually touch on so many different social issues while never feeling forced or unauthentic. It is the first audiobook in ages that I have listened to without feeling like I needed to speed up the narration, because there was so much going on, I felt like I needed more time to decipher Julia.
And I liked Julia. Many of the reviews I’ve read point out that she’s an unlikeable protagonist. That she’s rude and angry and bitter. I can’t argue with that, especially in the first half of the book, but it was so refreshing to see a real character who didn’t act perfectly at all the perfect times. Julia has a lot going on in her life, in her family, and in her head. We see a multi-faceted person who worries and gets angry and makes foolish decisions while telling herself to stop and honestly which one of us hasn’t done that.
I think as a community, we love our happy endings in contemporaries – whether that ending means the girl gets the guy, or social justice is served. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter will frustrate some people because that sense of “all is well in the world” is missing at the end. But that should not be confused with the feeling that the characters never evolved. There are so many golden quotes in this book that felt plucked from my own heart, and there is so much representation going on it’s overwhelming at times. Erika L. Sánchez does not shy away from the real stories. And she doesn’t sugar coat life.
Because life… is life. And sometimes, it’s okay to be imperfect. Trying to fill the shoes of a sibling, a cultural ideal, or even just a person opinion for ourselves is… impossible, most the time. We are who we are and I think that story is told beautifully through Julia’s journey.
So, socially, there’s a lot going on here. Honestly, I’m not sure I can think of any social issues pertaining to race, sexuality, metal health, or class that aren’t touched on in at least a general way. I expected to feel like Erika L. Sánchez was taking on too many things, but one thing flows into the next and it’s just… life.
I thought her writing was good, and her transitions were very good. There are scenes that may feel unimportant,but they all tie into Julia’s growth. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter has an internal struggle plot, with an external struggle subplot, and that’s something we’re not accustomed to seeing. There’s a point where Julia mentions Like Water for Chocolate with some disgust, saying she had to read it for school. I read it too, and I can’t remember why it was assigned reading (literary acclaim, a specific message?) but if it’s still being read and if it’s just a diversity read… I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter would be a much better book to have in the curriculum.
Even though I went in thinking I would not like it, I thoroughly appreciated I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. It’s one I definitely want to add to my personal library. It’s powerful in the right ways and it makes you think about so many different things. I’m so glad Dani gave me the little push to read this.
As this was a buddy read, somewhere down the road I’ll be doing a special post answering some questions Dani will prepare for me to discuss this book and my views on it a little more. This is not the last you’ll hear about Julia!
If you’ve read this book, did you find Julia unlikeable? I actually found her bitterness entirely understandable, and never held it against her, but I feel like I’m in the minority! If you disliked Julia – or any unhappy protagonist – come tell me why in the comments!