Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
TL;DR at the bottom because I’m apparently incapable of writing shorter reviews now.
Gabi is a book that tackles a multitude of subjects, including body positivity/self image, race, gender, rape, drug addiction, grief, religion, and sex without being too preachy, stretching itself too thin, or cramming anything down your throat, so I applaud it for that alone. (The aforementioned issues also serve as a trigger warning for the book, in case you are sensitive to any of them.)
Beyond these abstract issues, we get the story of Gabi, as told through her diary. A Mexican-American girl in her last year of high school, Gabi’s going through some shi—crap. Her best friend, Cindy, gets pregnant, her other best friend, Sebastian, is trying to come out to his homophobic parents, her father is a meth addict, and she’s constantly told by the people around her that she’s too fat, too white, and never going to be good enough. So yeah. There’s a lot on her plate. But Gabi discovers poetry as a means of self-expression, and she has plenty of humour, cheer, and love to lean on.
Now, it’d be really easy for this book to be a depressing, self-righteous tome. A lot of the subject matter is heavy, after all. Despite this, each issue is treated with Gabi’s signature blend of humour, kindness, and sass, and respect and self-reflection when called for.
One of my favourite parts of the book was definitely the characters. Since this is first-person POV as a diary, we only get Gabi’s perspective, but unlike other books, where this format can be limiting, I found that it was enough. Each character is realistic, with their own nuances, unique flaws, and unique strengths, which is part of what makes this book so compelling. I cared about each character very much, so when things happened to them, I was on the edge of my seat in rage or joy at whatever was going on.
Though Gabi was by no means solely character-driven, having strong characters made it more than a parade of drama after drama. Also, the teenagers in the book pretty much acted/spoke (in my opinion) like actual teenagers, which is always a plus.
Right now, I’m going to start on diving deeper into a few things I personally felt this book did well, starting with…
1. Body positivity!
Gabi has a really complicated relationship with her body, because she’s fat. Throughout the course of the novel, the people around her, including close friends and relatives tell her that she should exercise more, be more healthy, be worried about finding a man, et cetera, because of her weight. Gabi listens to them, and she often hates her body, but she is never ashamed of how much she loves food and loves to eat. Never is her love of food in all of its delicious and tantalising forms portrayed as wrong, or seen in a negative light. Eventually, she comes to realize that it’s okay to love her body, even though she’s fat. There’s no “fat person gets thinner and feels more confident about body” arc, no weight loss saga! There’s no shame in being fat is the message, and that is so, so important.
I love poetry, so maybe I’m a little biased here, but I loved the poetry of this book. I believe that the poetry is written in such a way that even if you’re not really into poetry, it’s still accessible and fun. There are numerous references to other great poets, but the important part is that Gabi writes her own poems, which are humorous or heartbreaking, and mostly (but not all) in free verse. There’s also the inclusion of a zine (a homemade magazine-type thing) in the book which is a refreshing break from the diary format with some really good poetry and great visuals.
Not going to go into detail, but this book has a really realistic outlook on sex, and is sex positive, but not graphic!
Religion is and will probably always be a reallllly dicey subject, but I think the important part of the book is that Gabi reconciles with her religion (Catholicism/Christianity) and finds her own way in it. She has a healthy, albeit unconventional relationship with religion. The book is never condescending about it, either. Too many books (and people!) find joy in tearing others down for believing in a religion, whether it be Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or Christianity, but believing in any religion is absolutely valid! It’s only when religion is weaponized does it become a problem. (Looking at you, Westboro Baptist Church.)
So? Concluding thoughts? Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is a great, fun, and exciting book that has a fresh take on many relevant issues through the eyes of a 17-year-old Mexican American girl. There are many sad moments in the book, and the overall lighthearted tone of the book does not detract from them. It’s feisty, sassy, and feminist! I’ll stop with the adjectives now, but needless to say, I enjoyed it. 10/10 recommend it!!! (There is, obviously, mature subject matter, so read with caution.)
TL;DR: Gabi is fun, but does not shy away from being deep! There are good, realistic characters, a multitude of sensitive, well-handled topics, and awesome food descriptions! Also the poetry is pretty excellent, if you like that kind of thing 😀