When you have to delete a word from the title because you’re a middle-aged (old) lady who can’t bring herself to even type words that her mother taught her never to use, it’s probably a sign that this book is not for you (me). Yaqui Delgado, as I will dub this YA Cybils winner for the rest of this post, wasn’t written with old lady readers in mind. However, since I sometimes enjoy YA fiction, and since it’s a Cybils book and Ms. Medina is winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award, I struggled through.
Yaqui Delgado is a book about bullying. Along with gender identity confusion, bullying seems to be the topic du jour in middle grade and young adult fiction these days. Piddy Sanchez is new at her high school, and she gets a message that someone named Yaqui Delgado wants to beat her up. Why? Piddy (an unfortunate and distracting nickname for Piedad) never really knows, and she doesn’t even know know who Yaqui is at first. Various schoolmates speculate that the source of the enmity is because Yaqui’s boyfriend looks at Piedad’s rear end too much or because Piddy swings her hips and bottom when she walks. Whatever the reason Yaqui and her gang are out to get Piddy, and the harassment escalates as Piddy tries to figure out how to pacify her enemies without reporting them to the school authorities.
The school authorities are fairly helpless even when they do get wind of the bullying that’s going on, and the book ends with a resolution that doesn’t seem to me to be much of a solution to Piddy’s problem. At the very least, the solution is non-transferable to readers who may be dealing with the same issue; not everyone can move themselves to a magnet school and never see their tormentor again.
I wanted Piedad to fight back, tell Yaqui Delgado and her minions to take a flying leap, tell everybody, yell, scream, and generally make havoc until she got some real protection and help from the adults in her life who are supposed to be able to do something about such problems. Perhaps such character development would be unrealistic, but the plot as it was frustrated me. I’m an old lady, and I don’t believe in tolerating bullying or crude language. Zero tolerance for bullying takes more than a few signs to that effect posted around the school. It takes adults who will make sure the bullies don’t win.