Title: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
Narrator: Kyla Garcia
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Interest: William C. Morris award winner / Diversity / Contemporary
Source: Audio purchased via Audible
Summary (From Goodreads):
Named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
Named to School Library Journal Best Books of 2014
Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.
Isabel Quintero is a library technician in the Inland Empire. She is also the events coordinator for Orange Monkey and helps edit the poetry journal Tin Cannon. Gabi is her debut novel.
“Mrs. Andersen, would you consider yourself a feminist?” That question came about during a To Kill a Mockingbird discussion in class that stemmed from a student bringing up the way Aunt Alexandra pesters Scout about acting like a lady. I wasn’t expecting my student to ask me that question and I wasn’t sure how to respond. But I had just finished listening to Gabi, A Girl in Pieces and kept thinking that it belongs in a women’s lit class or something. Isabel Quintero has written an incredibly smart book with an authentically teen protagonist.
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces is written as a series of diary entries that tell Gabi’s story during her senior year in high school. Her best friend is pregnant, her other good friend has opened up about being gay, her life at home is difficult, and she’s questioning herself constantly. She likes boys. She likes kissing boys. She wonders if this makes her “a slut.” Gabi has many thoughts and feelings about what girls should and shouldn’t do. What they’re expected to do. What makes a “good girl” versus a “slut.” This dialogue she has with herself is so important for teens to read and consider. Our culture needs to seriously think about and discuss these gender definitions, expectations, and double standards, so I’m doubly happy that Isabel Quintero’s debut won the William C. Morris award this year. I may not have known about her book otherwise.
If you’re an audio fan, then I highly suggest listening to this book. I have an extra appreciation for the audio since I was able to hear the Spanish words and the proper pronunciation. I know I would have butchered them if I was trying to read them myself, despite my few years of high school Spanish courses. Kyla Garcia was a great choice as a narrator because her voice sounds young. Gabi’s voice is very realistic as a teenage character, so I’m happy the narrator’s voice matches that as well. Also, Kyla Garcia adds so much emotion to Gabi’s words. I felt what Gabi was feeling and was completely drawn into her story as I listened.
I also need to comment on the poetry. I wish I could take Gabi’s poetry class. I enjoy reading poetry and often wrote it when I was in high school, so I found myself really connecting with Gabi as she read poetry and discovered herself through her own poetry. I’d like to seek out some of the poems Quintero included in her novel so I can find a way to use them in class.
Isabel Quintero is an author to watch; I hope she writes something again soon because Gabi, A Girl in Pieces is a stunning debut.