Merci Suárez Changes Gears

by Meg Medina (2018)

Introducing…Merci Suárez. Fun.  Spunky.  Mature. Immature.  Making for one highly representative middle-schooler.  Merci’s story is one of change, of accepting the hard truths in life and the bumps along the road.  Hers is also the story of a loving family that helps during this tricky time.  Join Merci as she navigates her sixth-grade year, nostalgic for the way things were, yet plunged into the reality of the way things are.

Merci is tested to see if she can adapt, accept, and ultimately appreciate the changes that life brings.  Merci’s story beautifully describes living in an intergenerational home and watching a beloved grandparent battle dementia while transitioning into the trying world of middle school.  Merci embodies the Cuban-American tradition of large families living close together and maintaining their heritage while living an assimilated American existence.

Meg Medina brings the reader right into La Casitas where Merci’s extended family live, love, and learn with one another each day.  She has created a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, getting to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family. She opens our eyes to the importance of family and how strong the Suárez family is for one another.  Her blend of Latino culture, quips, and traditions allow the reader to experience and learn how this family loves and supports one another.  Taken from some of her own life experiences, Medina’s story is infused with culturally educating information.  She crafts moments, emotions, and scenarios that are recognizably familiar – for any reader.  Wit and humor shine through Merci’s spunky personality.

Merci is challenged with many of the struggles that befall most middle schoolers – school, friend, girls, boys, bullies.  The girls she thought were her friends show flashes of kindhearted charm then stunning cruelty in the blink of an eye. At home, Merci’s rock – her beloved grandfather – is struggling with age-related dementia bringing changes for everyone.

Sixth grade is a tough for everyone. As a scholarship student at an expensive academy, it’s even tougher for Merci. Not only does she have to learn to endure middle school, where she doesn’t always feel she fits in with her classmates, but she also has to start growing up and facing new responsibilities.

Families will be blessed to share in Merci’s touching and honest journey during her sixth-grade year.  Her lovable, no-nonsense character navigates several awkwardly funny situations.  Her family’s love and struggles are a model for readers to discuss and enjoy. Merci’s close relationship with Lolo is touching and special and pure.  Families will be inspired watching the Suárez family maneuver and confront its new challenges.  The writing is Newbery-winning superb and there are many elements of Cuban culture and family life that will resonate and educate. Families may be inspired to allow their hearts to guide their actions and enjoy a book sure to be read and shared together for years to come.