“Why is life so complicated? Why can’t we just kiss who we like when we like? Why are there so many rules?”
This book follows Gabi Hernandez on her senior year of high school. I found Gabi to be completely relatable coming from a Mexican family myself. Gabi is Mexican American, and she’s dealing with a stubborn aspect of Mexican culture as she discovers poetry, love, sex, and every aspect of her body.
I loved the characters so much, starting off with Gabi. She’s a quirky girl who writes beautiful poetry, thinks a lot about food and boys, and is always there for her friends. Her best friends, Sebastian and Cindy, each have their own problems to deal with. There’s a closer insight to the obnoxious Mexican machismo and homophobia that’s very present when Sebastian comes out to his parents. However, I appreciated that the story focused on Sebastian having a happy life in spite of this. Same thing with Cindy and her pregnancy. (These aren’t really spoilers since they happen right at the beginning).
What I enjoyed the most about this novel was all the strong themes Quintero integrated so organically into the story. Gabi spends a lot of time dealing with her feelings about boys, wanting to have sex despite her mom being totally against sex before marriage, binge eating even though her mom frowns upon it, and coming to terms with her own body in ways she hadn’t imagined before.
“Sometimes I don’t want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy. I mean, I would never dare ask it who the fairest of them all is because I know the response would make me weep. But sometimes I feel okay about how I look and even think, I’d tap that, why not?”
Along with these themes, Quintero tackles very difficult topics, such as rape, abortion, and drug addictions. I think this book was very self-aware and conscious of the message it was sending, which was one of acceptance. I loved the way it interwove so many different themes without it feeling overwhelming, and the message didn’t come through like an after school special in any way.
I didn’t like the diary entry format of this book. Although I loved Gabi’s intimate narration in her journal, I wanted more scenes. There was so much more I wanted to know about all the side characters, especially Sebastian and Cindy. Many times Gabi just mentioned brief interactions with them without elaborating and I just wanted more from them. I also didn’t feel any connection to the love interest, Martin. He sounded great, but I saw him as a two-dimensional character. That’s why I think the format didn’t work too well for this book.
Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m so glad I got to meet Gabi and her amazing love of food, poetry, and boys. She was such a strong character with a powerful voice. I hope many others get to meet her.