A Kirkus Reviews Most Anticipated Book of 2021
In Meg Medina's follow-up to her Newbery Medal-winning novel, Merci takes on seventh grade, with all its travails of friendship, family, love--and finding your rhythm.
Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she's got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be a smart as her brother, Roli. She's been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she's tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball.
One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can't dance--not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else. Dancing makes her almost as queasy as love does, especially now that Tía Inés, her merengue-teaching aunt, has a new man in her life. Unfortunately, Merci can't seem to avoid love or dance for very long. She used to talk about everything with her grandfather, Lolo, but with his Alzheimer's getting worse each day, whom can she trust to help her make sense of all the new things happening in her life? The Suárez family is back in a touching, funny story about growing up and discovering love's many forms, including how we learn to love and believe in ourselves.
Newbery Medalist Medina artfully chronicles another year of highs and lows in the life of Cuban American middle schooler Merci Suárez via this winning sequel to Merci Suárez Changes Gears. Now a seventh grader, 12-year-old Merci has taken on more responsibilities at home and at school, including caring for her beloved grandfather, Lolo, as his Alzheimer's advances, and managing the school store with her classmate, "human calculator" Wilson Bellevue, a quiet Cajun and Creole boy who wears a foot brace. But when Miss McDaniels drafts the entrepreneurial Merci to sell tickets for the Heart Ball--and cooperate with her former nemesis, Edna Santos--Merci must learn to step outside her comfort zone and onto the dance floor. Medina continues to build on the stellar character work of the first book, balancing laugh-out-loud one-liners ("Buy a Heart Ball ticket if you have absolutely nothing better to do in this sad life") with vulnerability ("People... vanish, sometimes a little at a time. One day Lolo won't know how to move his legs. One day soon, he won't be able to dance"). This is a sequel of the finest quality, perfectly capturing the feelings of awkward first crushes ("Did he say I look nice? Or did he say I look like a rodent? I can't decide") and evolving friendships. Ages 9-12. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.)Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 4-7--Now in seventh grade, Merci Suárez finds that a new school year means new responsibilities and challenges. Merci has been enlisted to work in the school store alongside her classmate Wilson, who she might have a crush on, and is still at odds with classmate Edna, who is planning the Heart Ball and maybe stealing one of Merci's best friends. At home, Merci feels unprepared for the changes in her family: Her grandfather's Alzheimer's is worsening, and Tía Inez has started dating. At heart, Merci remains true to the character readers met in Merci Suárez Changes Gears and has grown alongside her readership. However, seventh grade Merci is not without her flaws. She and Edna still don't get along, and she spies on Tía Inez even when she isn't supposed to. When Merci is roped into running a photography booth at the Heart Ball and the equipment breaks, she tries to solve the problem herself instead of telling an adult. The struggles with friendships, responsibility, school, crushes, and jealousy that Merci and her friends face will strike a chord with many readers. A subplot about Tía Inez keeping dance classes alive for neighborhood kids who have nowhere to go after school serves as a subtle reminder of Merci's Cuban American heritage and the socioeconomic status of families in Merci's neighborhood versus at school. The plot moves along at a consistent and page-turning pace, and as usual Medina's characters are excellently written and developed. Medina also touches on racism and how shared cultural heritage can bring people together unexpectedly. VERDICT Fans of Merci Suárez Changes Gears will love watching how Merci and those around her grow. This sequel doesn't disappoint and is an essential purchase for all collections.--Liz Anderson, DC P.L.Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.