Books about bullying are on the rise as adults grapple with its causes and impact — and young people struggle to deal with it. This gritty novel manages to transcend the usual earnest fictional treatment by delivering a protagonist who is more than a mere victim and an ending that rings complicatedly true. At her new high school, Piddy Sanchez is surprised to find herself targeted by tough Yaqui Delgado, a fellow Latina who objects to Piddy’s good grades and “wiggly” walk. Piddy tries, by turns, to avoid, ignore and reason with Yaqui to no avail, and her terror mounts as Yaqui’s small cruelties intensify. What can Piddy do? She’s sure that turning to adults will only further enrage Yaqui and her friends. While this situation is certainly compelling, Meg Medina widens her story to involve readers not just in Piddy’s problem but also in her larger life. Piddy’s curiosity about her absent father and her evolving relationship with a scraggly neighbor boy add depth and intrigue. Her pithy accounts of her neighborhood in Queens, her “worried face” mother and a glamorous family friend contain humor and insight. This unflinching novel, with its richly developed main character, deserves a place with two other nuanced bully books for teens: Rita Williams-Garcia’s “Jumped,” a 2009National Book Award finalist that explores the mindsets of bully, victim and bystander; and Adam Rex’s “Fat Vampire,” in which a main character confronts her guilt as a cyberbully.
YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS
By Meg Medina
Age 14 and up