Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintaro

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Body image. Two short words that carry so much weight (pun intended). For American women andbecause men like some curves, especially in the baby-feeding area of the body, but certainly not FAT! Being fat means you're lazy. Being fat means you have no self-control. Being fat means you don't care about yourself. Being fat means people can dismiss you without guilt, because being fat is a seen as a character flaw, not a natural subset of human appearance.
girls (and, increasingly, girls anywhere in the world influenced by American beauty standards), the phrases "body image" and "weight problem" go hand in hand. There are certainly other (unrealistic) expectations for things like flawless skin, silky hair, etc..., but even those things won't make a female person "ideal" without also being thin. Not too thin, of course,

Being a curvy girl myself (Godbout hips, am I right aunts and girl cousins?), I have spent almost all of my life, from as far back as I can remember, ashamed of the size of my body. Especially when I was a teenager, which is ridiculous because looking back I was a perfectly average-sized person. But then, teenage girlhood is fraught with messages about the ways we don't measure up to feminine ideals-we're too skinny/too fat/too smart/too air-headed/too prudish/too slutty/etc...Isabel Quintero explores this through the lens of Latinx culture in her novel Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. 

The book follows the protagonist, Gabi, through her senior year in high school. Told through her journal entries, the story takes us through her struggles to maintain her grades, complete college applications, and manage a social life. Gabi's body image is pretty low, so when a cute boy named Eric wants to date her, she begins a relationship with him, despite the fact that they have nothing in common. Luckily, she soon finds Martin, a boy from her English class who shares her love of poetry.

Gabi is also trying to juggle all the stress of senior year with her concern for her father, who has been addicted to meth as long as Gabi can remember. When she comes home one day to find him dead of an overdose, it throws her into a tailspin that threatens to derail her plans to escape her dead-end neighborhood and find the life she has always dreamed of.

Quintaro expertly navigates the space between hope and fear with Gabi, who alternates between being sure her life is over and recommitting herself to the future she wants to have. Gabi's poetry demonstrates how she processes her life experiences, eventually finding her own voice. The novel takes on a lot-body image, first love, teen pregnancy, sexual assault, drug addiction/overdose-but it does a decent enough job addressing them all that the story doesn't feel disjointed. Quintero mixes the darker events with lots of Gabi's own self-deprecating inner life, creating a nice emotional balance. I think a lot of teenage girls would relate to Gabi, especially Latinx girls. This was definitely one of the best YA books I've read this year.

1 comment:

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