Saturday, September 7, 2019

Review: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Title: Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Author: Meg Medina
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 355
Availability: On shelves
Review copy: Advanced readers copy

Summary: Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Review: Merci and her family completely won my heart. Their relationships are strong, but sometimes messy. They give of themselves, but they also fuss at each other. There is no doubt that they love each other, but love doesn't keep siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins and other family members from being annoying. Merci comes to see that having so many family members living near each other can be a total pain - especially when it means babysitting for free, but it also has big benefits. Being able to raid multiple refrigerators is a plus, but it's also a true gift to have grandparents within reach and people who will jump in when needed for pretty much anything.

All of that is true, but there are changes happening and Merci is not liking these changes. Even more than that, she is being kept in the dark about some things and she gets extremely frustrated that her family doesn't trust her with information. Changes are hard. They're hard for everyone, but adults sometimes forget that when they are keeping things from children, sometimes that increases the worry for young people.

For anyone who has dealt with health issues in their family, this book would likely speak to them. Readers may experience emotions right along with Merci - frustration, sadness, confusion, and more. Anyone who believes childhood is generally a carefree time of life will surely see that they may not have the same exact issues as adults, but they can be just as impactful as situations adult face.

Recommendation: Merci and her family are people everyone should get to know. While reading, people can take a seat in the Suárez family homes and watch as they learn and grow together. It's a beautiful and heartwarming story in spite of the painful moments and is worth any tears that may fall. Never fear, there are also plenty of funny moments too. Merci's story won a Newbery medal so it will get into many hands, but if you haven't read it yet, you'll need to pick it up soon.

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