Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, a first novel by Isabel Quintero, is told in diary entries that include conversations, poems, and even a zine. High school senior Gabi Hernandez’s voice is lively and her life is full and complicated. She copes with her intense feelings about her identity and body and her chaotic family, first by binge eating and later, by reading and writing poetry. As an example of bibliotherapy, Gabi was many times more effective for this reviewer than Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar (Dutton Juvenile, 2014.) While Gabi has the right to be as dolorous as Belzhar’s Jam, this novel is buoyant where Belzhar was leaden. Gabi is a survivor who deals with her struggles with humor, enthusiasm, and joy. While her own character is the fulcrum of the story, Gabi‘s friends and family are vivid, infuriating, and entertaining. They include her friend, Sebastian, recently openly gay, her best friend Cindy, newly pregnant, her mother, also pregnant and controlling of Gabi’s behavior, her little brother, and her meth-addicted father.
This is also one of the few Young Adult novels that deals with weight and overeating in an authentic, empathetic, and sensitive way. Aside from Quintero’s thoughtful and enjoyable storytelling, the novel satisfies readers looking for diversity. Adolescence is the crucial stage of identity formation, and teens (and adults!) will relate to Mexican-American Gabi’s ambivalence about her mother’s traditional ways. Fans of the CW telenovela Jane the Virgin might be interested in this book.
Speaking of Jane the Virgin, star Gina Rodriguez just decided that she's a feminist! Information is powerful!