Erika L. Sánchez – I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erika L. Sánchez – I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

When her older sister Olga dies in a car accident, there is only 15-year-old Julia left to be the perfect Mexican daughter her parents want to have. Olga was a role model, she always obeyed, did not go out, helped her mother with her cleaning job and even at college did not have a boyfriend. Julia, instead, wants the full life that all girls in Chicago have, she dreams of becoming a writer, likes to go out with her friends and have fun. Quite naturally, she over and over provokes conflicts with her parents. After Olga is gone, the situation worsens increasingly until it becomes unbearable and she only sees one way out of it all.

Erika L. Sánchez is a journalist and writer of Mexican decent. Her novel “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” was nominated finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She brilliantly portrays the perspective of a teenager who struggles with all the problems of a typical teenager but additionally has to live up to the expectations of her parents who have grown up in another country, with another culture and other values which they have taken with them and which they now project on their daughters. Additionally, which only becomes clear throughout the novel, the loss of her sister has left a greater scar on Julia than was obvious at the beginning.

I totally adored how Erika L. Sánchez found the tone of a teenager who is emotional and only wants to be free, free in her very own understanding. Julia is a sympathetic and adorable girl and it is not difficult to follow her line of thoughts. She wants to be a good daughter, she hates the fights with parents, but she is also stubborn and demands to be treated like the others, the American girls, and not to live up to the old, overcome Mexican values.

Living between two cultures means much more than just growing up, fulfilling the expectations of the peer group and the parents is impossible but nevertheless expected from teenagers in a time of rebellion. They all have to find their individual way of coping with this, Olga found hers and Julia only bit by bit uncovers that her sister wasn’t necessarily the girl she thought she was.

A great read in many respects, full of life, emotional, funny but also reflective and dark at times, it captures the full range of teenage life and takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Rosie Price – What Red Was

Rosie Price – What Red Was

It is their first week at university when Max and Kate realise not only that they live on the same floor but that they are soul mates. They can hardly be separated anymore, they are friends, not lovers, but closer than you could ever be. They share the love for film and any secret. Even though their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, Kate from the countryside modestly raised by her mother whereas Max’ parents are successful and quite rich. Yet, one evening changes everything when Max’ cousin Lewis, who has eyed their friendship jealously for years, thinks he can take whatever he wants: Kate. The young woman falls into a deep hole. Afterwards, there is not much left of the creative and lively art student; suffering from a severe depression and increasingly self-harming herself, she does not find a way to confide in somebody. She has always been more insecure than others but now, she has lost her footing.

Rosie Price’s book starts out like a wonderful college novel. The immediate friendship between Kate and Max is mesmerising, it is really enchanting to see how two strangers can get along so well and form mutual trust without hesitation. But then the tide turns and so does the atmosphere. What I liked about it was the fact that the author does not use any direct brutal violence to describe what happens to Kate but focuses much more on the effect this traumatic experience has on her.

“And so instead she said nothing, hoping that if she chose not to voice whatever it was that lodged in her chest, somewhere between her lungs and her heart, it would diminish; that its toxicity might find its own means of excreting itself from her body”

The protagonist does not break down immediately, she keeps on going and to a certain extent is capable of deceiving the people around her and pretending everything is fine. I guess this is the trickiest part of such an experience that you cannot see what is going on inside somebody’s head and if you are not really closely observing, the actual emotional state might go unnoticed. A positive aspect, on the other hand, is that help comes from an unexpected person and that ultimately, Kate finds a way of opening up and talking to somebody about what is going on with her. In my opinion, the representation of Kate’s state of mind is quite accurate and also how she tries to hint at what happens but is not understood.

The story might trigger destructive memories in some readers, nevertheless I would definitely recommend reading the novel since it provides insight how a woman might become a victim in a supposedly safe environment and how these assaults might go unnoticed and the perpetrators get away with it.