I am not your perfect Mexican Daughter: A review
Erika L. Sanchez’s novel whose protagonist is navigating a host of emotions and familial expectations. Perfect Mexican Daughter follows Julia who wants to go away to college, wants to be a writer, wants to leave her family to go off to college; she is everything every that is opposite of her sister Olga. Her sister who has died because of a tragic accident.
At first glance, Julia is obnoxious and annoying and angry; however, we quickly learn that if she stops being angry she is afraid she will fall apart, which clues readers in that there is another cause for her actions. This is where I think Sanchez does an amazing job at weaving in the ways mental health affects young people, and the ugliness of grief.
I see myself in Julia because she turns to books to feel safe and seen. Being from a strict Mexican family, she feels like her comparison to her sister has been her whole life’ story—which I can also relate to.
As the story goes on, the you began to sense that her anger and possible depression can be self-destructive and it makes her hard to like as a character but her friends are not any better in the personality department. At first this caused me hate the book a little, but then I brought myself back to the fact that these are teenagers who are all trying to find themselves in a community that doesn’t seem to like their whole selves.
Although this book is technically “young adult” I do think that it covers some extremely heavy topics that. From grief, to sexual assault, and even emotional abuse. I definitely think that these are topics that teenagers are going through more and more in middle and high school; however, I do think there should have been some type of trigger warning. I know that Sanchez puts something at the end regarding mental health services; yet, it seems a little late considering Julia’s actions before her parents send her to Mexico.
There was quite a bit of the family dynamics in the novel that are translatable to my childhood, although I am Black not Mexican American. There were quite a few things that I learned but I think my favorite part of this book was the switch between Spanish and English and it was so important to the authenticity of this book.
My one complaint about the book though, is that it seemed extremely fast paced. I thought there could be some scenes that could have been left out and other parts extended. At times I would get lost and not realize that the storyline had jumped to another day or even another week or month.
Overall, I believe Sanchez book is a must read to understand mental health and minority communities in lower socio-economic environments. We do get to see the contrast between Julia and Connor—although I wish we saw more of—and through this we are able to see the different types of problems that weigh on Julia and somewhat shape her whole life. I also think that addressing grief and loss of a sibling is so important at such a young age because it happens more often than we would like to acknowledge. Sanchez is a writer to be reckoned with and is changing the narrative in young adult fiction and it is necessary.