Shut Up, This Is Serious

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jan. 2024. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063287860.
Gr 9 Up–This novel explores the coming-of-age of two Latina girls during their senior year of high school in East Oakland. Both Leti and Belén navigate a terrain that is saturated in casual racism, belittlement, sexism, and daily toxicity, but for Belén, all of these plus her father’s abandonment have sent her into an emotional tailspin. As related by Belén, everyone else’s lives and upheavals function as distraction from the heaviness of her own depression. Ixta explores the shortcomings of underfunded public education and a higher education system that wants trauma porn to inform student applications. For Leti’s college essay, she must divulge her teen pregnancy. But Ixta upends the notion that teen girls who get pregnant have thrown away their futures. Readers see that Leti, for all of her shrinking self-consciousness, is a fighter. This realistic novel lays bare the ways in which some of the most harmful damage a young girl can experience happens in the home. Belén witnesses the infidelity of her father and that of Leti’s father, as well as the abuse visited upon Leti’s body. Belén, the observant one, is belittled and treated with contempt for the behavior of the father. Yet she can still love deeply and begin the act of forgiving and healing. This novel explores the effects of family strife, the behaviors children learn from their own parents, and what catalysts spark their evolution and journey away from those damaging situations.
VERDICT Readers will be inspired by Belén’s path to healing but not before it makes them ugly cry.

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