Meg Medina's YA page turner, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, the reader never meets Yaqui, the bully intent on violence and destroying protagonist Piddy Sanchez. She's off stage, only seen peripherally. That makes sense, as bullying, like domestic violence, is about fear and control. It isn't actually personal.
Bullying is in the news. It's linked to suicide, kids literally dying of humiliation at the hands of bullies.
Medina gets the psychology of bullying right, which, besides it being a heart wrenching fast moving story, is a good reason to read it. A parallel thread appears in this novel about a family affected by domestic violence. The reader sees how bullies operate, and, like victims of domestic violence, why victims fear confrontation.
Piddy's school work is affected. Mr. Flatwell, her teacher states, "Last year you were an A student . . . I've read your records . . . What's happening here, Miss Sanchez? Something isn't right." But because she is afraid of retribution if she rats on mysterious Yaqui, Piddy suffers alone and the reader wants to shake her.
But in the end, Piddy, pretty and smart and loved, all things that Yaqui envies, does get away. Not only does this book show accurately how kids lose their self-esteem at the hands of a bully, it also shows what kids need to survive. Piddy has a mother, an aunt and a friend who, even as those relationships are nearly severed, love her enough to never give up on her. They persist, and we can only imagine how many kids don't have that.
Despite the dark themes, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is an entertaining character driven novel, the characters complex, with evocative and believable motivations. I suspect many kids could see themselves in these pages.
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