Audiobook Review: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Audio Review

Gabi, a Girl in PiecesTitle: 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.

July 24

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.

Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

BOY21 CoverTitle: Boy21, 256 pages

Author: Matthew Quick

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 5th, 2012

Interest: Diversity / Sports / Guy appeal

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won’t pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption.

Plain and simple, Boy21 is a GREAT book.  I was on the search for a quality read aloud for my freshmen English classes, so I picked up Boy21 on a whim.  I wanted to read it anyway, but I kept thinking about my 3rd hour freshmen class that’s primarily boys who don’t enjoy reading.  Boy21 seemed like the perfect fit for them, so I went with my hunch and started reading it.  As soon as I read the first couple chapters I knew I made the right decision.

Finley’s voice really stands out on the page, which is ironic considering he doesn’t like to talk much.  He actually reminds me a little bit of Lucky Linderman from Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King.  Both Lucky and Finley have a sort of innocence about them.  They both have trouble speaking up for themselves, and they also want what’s best for those around them.  Just like Lucky, Finley is an admirable character.

One of the reasons I like Finley is because he’s so loyal to his friends, coach, and family.  When his coach approaches him about helping Boy21 (Russ), Finley doesn’t hesitate to offer his help.  He trusts his coach, so even though he worries that Russ could take his starting position on the basketball team, he still tries to make friends with Russ.  Russ has an obsession with space and refers to himself as Boy21, but he and Finley pair up well.  They’re both amazing basketball players, even though Russ doesn’t show this right away, and they both deal with unfair treatment.  They’re both treated poorly for different reasons, much of which is based on race and rivalry, but it still serves as a bond.  After a startling and tragic turn of events, Finley really grows as a character.  His loyalties are tested and he begins to doubt what’s truly important in his life.  He begins to question his life, where it’s going–if anywhere–and what really happened years ago that caused him to be such a quiet, good kid.  I love being able to witness this kind of characterization, which is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s novel so much.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick is a novel that appeals to a variety of readers.  My basketball players and sports fiction fans will enjoy the basketball scenes and references in Boy21.  My fans of great contemporary realistic fiction will recognize what a superb example this is of that genre.  Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ.  They’ll feel the tension and suspense, they’ll laugh out loud, and they might even cry (I did).

Waiting on Wednesday–Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Embarrassing fact–I haven’t read Sorta Like a Rock Star which is Matthew Quick’s first novel.  I really don’t have an excuse for I haven’t read it yet either.  I received Boy21 over the summer, but have been waiting to read it closer to the release date.  I have a boy in my Y.A. Lit class who’s eating up my sports fiction and pretty much everything else I recommend.  I handed him my ARC the other day and noticed today that he has mere pages left.  I’m guessing he likes it!  I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts and reading it myself.  I hope you add it to your TBR list 🙂

Title & Author: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Release Date: March 5th, 2012

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads): Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won’t pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption. 

%d bloggers like this: