Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
Reading Quintero’s debut is like attending a large family fiesta: it’s overpopulated with people, noise, and emotion, but the overall effect is joyous. Presented as the diary of 17-year-old Mexican American Gabi, it covers a senior year ostensibly filled with travail, from a first kiss to first sex; from dealing with a meth-head father to a constantly shaming mother; from the pregnancies of two classmates to Gabi’s own fear of becoming “Hispanic Teen Mom #3,789,258.” But that makes the book sound pedantic, and it’s anything but. Unlike most diary-format novels, this truly feels like the product of a teenager used to dealing with a lot of life’s b.s. Sure, she is depressed at times, but just as often she is giddy with excitement about her new boyfriend (and then the one after that), or shrugging at the weight she just doesn’t feel like losing. If there is a structuring element, it’s the confidence-building poems Gabi writes for composition class, which read just like the uncertain early work of a nonetheless talented fledgling writer. Quintero, on the other hand, is utterly confident, gifting us with a messy, complicated protagonist who isn’t defined by ethnicity, class, weight, or lifestyle. Gabi is purely herself—and that’s what makes her universal.