I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Julia Reyes feels like no one in the world understands her, and is caught between her mother's repressive, traditional Mexican expectations of her to be submissive, spend her time cooking and cleaning, and living with her parents until she marries someone appropriate, and her own desires to be independant and make her own decisions. She dreams of going to college far away and becoming a writer. She will never measure up to the memory of her sister Olga, recently killed in a tragic accident, who in her parents' eyes was the "perfect Mexican daughter". But, as Julia struggles to make her parents understand her need for independence and privacy, she discovers that Olga was not the perfect daughter everyone thought she was.
I've seen this book compared to "Gabi: A Girl In Pieces" and in many ways it is similar. Gabi and Julia are both struggling against their mothers' rigid, traditional gender roles and expecctations, and desire to go away to college and make their own choices in life. They both experience tragic deaths in their families and have friends going through the dramas of teen pregnancy (or the possibility of) and not being accepted by their families because of sexual orientation. Food is also prevalent in both stories, and both express their feelings through their writing.
However, while Gabi seems to be fairly well-adjusted and deals with her issues with humor and confidence, Julia's story is much darker and more melancholy. Julia feels overwhelmed, and trapped in a life she doesn't want, and feels powerless to get out. Her depression and anxiety become more severe after her sister's death, until she can no longer cope. While I would have to say I enjoyed the lighter tone of Gabi's story more, this book is very powerful and could possibly help others who may be dealing with depression and anxiety as well. I think this book does a lot to help de-stigmatize mental illness, and illustrates how a combination of medication and therapy can help. The secondary story of Julia's sister Olga also adds an additional element of mystery to the story.
While the Mexican culture and immigration issues do play a significant part in this story, I think most people can relate to the struggle between others' expecations of them and what they want for themselves to some degree, and many people can relate to the feelings of frustration and despair that Julia has, so it certainly should have appeal to a wide audience.
Recommended for teens and adults.
[I received this as a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
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