Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass by Meg Medina
Candlewick Press, 2013. ISBN 9780763658595.
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. Bullying. Coming of age. 2013 Cybils Awards YA fiction. YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. YALSA 2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Piddy Sanchez has just moved to a new school when she gets a message that Yaqui Delgardo wants to kick her ass. She doesn't know Yaqui and certainly has done nothing to provoke her, but she is stuck in this new school and can't do anything about it. If she reports it she believes that the bullying will escalate and meanwhile her grades are going down the drain, her best friend has left the neighbourhood and is busy happily fitting into a new school and her mother refuses to tell her anything about the father that abandoned her.
At first Piddy tends to disregard the threats because she has enough to cope with and is really more interested in finding out about her missing father, especially after she overhears a conversation about him at the salon where she works at the weekends. However the bullying escalates and she finds that she can't bear to go to classes. Her school work really suffers, she begins to get detention and finally she starts to skip school altogether. This doesn't help as Yaqui and her cohort finally corner her in a shocking incident away from school.
This is a realistic portrayal of bullying. The reader follows Piddy's downward spiral, sympathising with her confusion about what to do, and knowing that often reporting the bully doesn't help. Readers who have been bullied will recognise what is happening and others will gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to be bullied and how often the person who is being bullied does nothing warrant that treatment. Sometimes bystanders have to stand up and report what is going on. Sometimes as Joey says the victim might have to 'Run if you have to'. Pg. 227.
Although the theme of bullying is central to the story, Medina's crisp and often funny dialogue and Piddy's relationship with her aunt Lila lifts the story. The characters around Piddy, her aunt, mother, the women in the salon, her friend Rob and the young man Joey, who finally leaves an abusive home, are all fully developed and realistic.
This is a heart-warming story with a wonderful young woman at its centre whose trials will clutch at your heartstrings.