Young adult novel explores realities of bullying

Piedad ‘Piddy’ Sanchez is a smart girl, almost at the top of her class in her old school. Her mother works long shifts at a warehouse and her father ran off before she was born. When the staircase collapses at the run-down apartment building that her family lives in, her mother decides to move to a different building in a different neighbourhood, forcing Piddy to switch schools.

As a new student at Daniel Jones High, it isn’t long before she attracts the attention of local tough girl Yaqui Delgado, leading to a struggle between the two that lasts the whole year and culminates in an inevitable confrontation.

Author Meg Medina tells the story in the first-person, weaving together a narrative from past and present events in the life of Piddy Sanchez. The narrative voice is very believable, relaying the events of the story in a sometimes strong, sometimes funny, always poignant manner.

There are three main storylines recurring throughout the novel. The first and primary focus is the battle of wills between Yaqui Delgado and the narrator. Starting out with verbal threats, the words soon escalate to physical violence.

The second storyline focuses on Piddy’s desire to find out the truth about her father, who her mother never talks about. Some of the most moving parts of the novel are when she recounts how she used to play a game when she was little, when she would pretend strangers were really her father coming to see how she is doing. She has to abandon her safe fantasies about her perfect father in order to discover the truth about who he really is.

The third thread of the story focuses on the relationship between Piddy and her childhood friend Joey Halper, who has become a teenager that never goes to school and designs his own tattoos and imprints them onto his skin with homemade equipment. The two had grown apart but they become closer as Piddy begins skipping school to avoid bullying.

The characters in the novel are all well written with vivid personalities and storylines. The only character that feels one-dimensional is Yaqui Delgado herself — a stereotypical bully from the bad side of town. The narrative style never really allows for her to develop a personality, history or interests outside her animosity towards Piddy. However, the vibrancy of the other characters makes up for her lack of personality.

The novel is a tough but often-entertaining read, with Piddy’s life falling to pieces as Yaqui Delgado antagonizes her at school and her life at home suffers. Piddy proves that she is a tough girl too throughout the course of the novel, fighting to put her life back together after it comes crashing down around her.

ksaretsky@cjournal.ca