The York County Public Libraries believe in having a strongly diverse book collection for all ages to enjoy. With discrimination still being a powerful obstacle in the world today, it is the YCPL's duty to arm the public with diverse knowledgeable books that will help educate young readers. Among these books there are two titles that stand out and are reviewed below. These books have a rich mixture of characters from diverse backgrounds that our young adult readers can not only connect with, but better understand as well. Both offer a chance to immerse themselves into someone else's life and feel the struggles they face everyday.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
Summary: 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?
by Susan Perkins
Themes: mental health, immigration
Let me start by saying that this was a difficult book to read. It was incredible but it left me feeling sad and angry in ways that wasn’t expecting.
Julia is the second daughter of undocumented immigrants, living in Chicago. Life is hard for her family and then it gets even more difficult when her older sister, Olga, is killed in a bus accident. Olga is the perfect daughter. She goes to work, she takes one class a semester at the local community college, and she takes care of her parents in ways that Julia just can’t understand. Julia is determined to learn more about her sister after her death and is shocked by what the secret life that she uncovers.
Between the pressure from her mother to be who she expects and the incredible amount of pressure that Julia puts on herself to escape her life in Chicago, it’s no wonder that Julia has a breakdown. She is sent to stay with family in Mexico, which she thinks is ridiculous but ultimately finds that it saves her.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was profoundly sad in many spots but it is also a story about hope and the ability to live the life that you dream for yourself. The Mexican culture never feels forced or contrived, which is one of the incredible benefits of reading an #OwnVoices book. At times, I felt immersed in the culture and came away with a much better understanding of Julia’s life.
I would definitely recommend this book, with the warning that you will absolutely be changed, just by reading it.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives. Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people… In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are
forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
by Tyffany Hollenbeck
Themes: grief, immigration
This book was phenomenal! I have never read a book in-verse before, so I was skeptical and worried I would not be able to follow the story, but I was so wrong.
The way this book is written helped me attach to the characters' emotions fluidly. When they felt grief I hurt for them; when they felt fear I wanted to shelter them; when they felt anger…I stayed out of the way. It made this such an easy read for me and I didn't want to put the book down. From the moment I started reading this book I was hooked. There is an unquenchable thirst for more information as you go, an I've-gots-to-know quality, if you will.
The excitement never ends making it difficult to put the book down; whether it is happy excitement or terrifying suspense. Most importantly it was eye-opening and inspiring the way these strong female characters carried themselves through the difficult time in their lives. This was not just the main characters, all these side female characters were given their own slice of story where they too overcame major obstacles in their lives. Overall, a fantastic read that I would recommend to all our young adult and adult patrons.
Visit YCPL's website and YouTube Channel for more book reviews, recommendations, and event notifications. You can also check out our post on #OwnVoices literature to learn more about the movement and get a book list of #OwnVoices Young Adult fiction available from the York County Public Library.