Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 17th 2017
Pages: 352 •Goodreads
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home.
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
*Warning- this review will contain some mild spoilers.*
I will be 100% honest and say that this book was not what I was expecting. With the Jane the Virgin reference in the synopsis and the “laugh out loud” funny claim, I was expecting something heavy but with moments of levity and a strong thread of self aware humor throughout, much like the 2018 release American Panda, which also focuses on a protagonist who is a child of immigrants navigating two cultures. However, I found I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter to actually be quite heavy, and at times hard to read, though it definitely tells an important story.
The novel follows protagonist Julia, the child of Mexican immigrants in Chicago, as she navigates her final two years of high school. From the onset of the novel, it’s apparent that Julia is deeply unhappy for various reasons, often blaming her Mexican heritage, though magnified by the recent death of her sister. I originally thought that the book was going to be a sort of contemporary-mystery focusing on Julia discovering the truth about her dead sister and the secrets she was keeping. While the first 25% or so of the novel focuses on Julia’s obsession with her sister’s secrets, it takes a sharp turn and starts to focus more inwardly on Julia and her own emotional and mental struggles, as she falls deeper and deeper into despair and suffocates under the expectations of her parents and balancing her desires for her future against her family’s.
“I want too much out of life. I want to take it in my hands and squeeze and twist as much as I can from it. And it’s never enough.” -Kindle Edition, Location 283
“But how do we live with these secrets locked within us? How do we tie our shoes, brush our hair, drink coffee, wash the dishes, and go to sleep, pretending everything is fine? How do we laugh and feel happiness despite the buried things growing inside?”- Kindle Edition, Location 3475