Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
By Isabel Quintero
Published 2014 by Cinco Puntos Press
Gabi's last year in high school is not going to be easy. Her dad's a drug addict, her best friend is pregnant, her other best friend is coming out, and she's trying to navigate it all. Plus, there are college applications, her antagonistic relationship with her mother, and boys. Will Gabi figure out a way to not only survive, but thrive?
If you were on the blog yesterday, you may have read my little tirade (I hope you did). Reading this book last week may have been another one of the things that pushed me to finally get my thoughts out. Because this book is SO IMPORTANT.
I wish this book had existed when I was a teen girl. Reading Gabi's thoughts on what it means to be a woman, or to be Mexican, or to love food, or to have an addicted family member - it would have meant a lot to me as a teen. Many of Gabi's thoughts are the same ones I had but was afraid to express. Why is it okay for boys to behave one way but not for girls? Why are boys allowed to be in control of their sexuality while girls are supposed to hide it? What does it really mean to be Mexican (or Asian or Black or White or Native or whatever)? Who decides? Why are overweight women judged so much more harshly than overweight men? Why isn't my love enough to fix my addicted family member? These are just a few of the kinds of thoughts that Gabi has in this novel and I recognized myself in a lot of them. My life is, on the surface, very different from Gabi's, but there are more similarities than I would have initially thought.
What resonated most with me was Gabi's exploration of her sexuality. I thought Quintero wrote this part of her character and story very realistically - it reminded me so much of my own experiences and it felt universal. So many girls are taught that they are not worth loving - that their bodies are not the right size or their skin is not the right color or their dreams are not the right ones. This leads these girls to think they don't deserve to find happiness, that they should settle for the first person to show some interest in them because who knows if there will be a second. I felt this way when I was a teen, so it didn't surprise me that Gabi did as well. I liked that Gabi's exploration of her sexuality led her to question her role in society and the role of women in general. I liked that she began to question how women are treated and how it can vary depending on many factors but some things stay pretty consistent.
Gabi's relationship with her dad also resonated deeply with me, as I also was a teen with an addicted family member. Her struggles were my struggles. I thought Quintero did a great job capturing what it feels like loving someone who is addicted and the many different things their addiction can do to your emotions.
Gabi's voice is so authentic and what she has to say is so important. I applaud Quintero for telling this story and I'm looking forward to what she might do next. In the meantime, I'll be recommending this book as much as I can.