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.

Cristina Alger – The Darlings

cristina alger the darlings
Cristina Alger – The Darlings

The Darlings are one of new York’s most famous families. Carter Darling’s investment company makes tons of money, mother Ines is still the most stunning woman at all gala events and their two daughters Merrill and Lily have found perfectly fitting husbands and fulfil their roles of the clever and the beautiful also impeccably. When one of Carter’s business partners commits suicide, the family has to face a crisis they have never seen before and, first and foremost, they have to admit that some things are just not what they pretended them to be: Carter is not the honest businessman, Ines is not the wife who still loves him after all those decades together, and family does not come first, when they feel threatened. What starts with one man taking his life, ends in one of the biggest finance scandals New York has ever seen and the Darlings are at the very centre of it.

Cristina Alger’s novel is a combination of a highly complex financial fraud thriller and a very personal family drama in which almost all characters are put to a test: what are their values, how far are they willing to go to protect their loved ones, how much more important can money be than the lives of people? The mechanics of both, the financial world and a family with their closest friends, are laid open and show the darkest corners of human nature.

Admittedly, “The Darlings” is not a fast paced thriller which keeps you alert all the time. Even though the plot covers just a couple of days and actually moves quite quickly, the author chose to rather go into depths with her characters which I liked a lot since it gives a lot more insight in their thoughts and makes their decision-making a great deal more comprehensible. The sheer number of characters wasn’t easy to manage at the beginning and understanding the connection between them took some time, but in the end, it was all very cleverly connected and set up and no questions was left unanswered. This might be difficult for some readers who prefer a speedy thrill, yet, for those who like stories about human beings and their nature, it is a great read.