- Age Range: 9 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 4 - 7
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Candlewick (September 11, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 076369049X
- ISBN-13: 978-0763690496
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#32,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #51 in Books > Children's Books > Geography & Cultures > Multicultural Stories > Hispanic & Latino
- #143 in Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Family Life > Multigenerational
- #1105 in Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Friendship, Social Skills & School Life > Friendship
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Merci Suárez Changes Gears Hardcover – September 11, 2018
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From the Publisher
Caught between the world of family and peers, the comfort of Las Casitas and the enticing new call of independence, Merci Suárez is a delightful heroine who, despite real challenges, never wavers in her strong sense of self or her fierce love for la familia. Readers will appreciate watching her navigate how to hold on to what matters when it feels like everything is changing.
—The New York Times Book Review
Medina’s breathtaking coming-of-age story features a strong, deeply honest protagonist whose insights will make readers laugh, as well as dynamic secondary characters that reveal glimmers of profound depth. Medina capably gets to the heart of middle school experiences in this engrossing story of a kid growing into herself. A must read.
—Booklist (starred review)
Medina writes about the joys of multigenerational home life (a staple of the Latinx community) with a touching, humorous authenticity. Merci's relationship with Lolo is heartbreakingly beautiful and will particularly strike readers who can relate to the close, chaotic, and complicated bonds of live-in grandparents. Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina’s life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it’s the ride that matters. Pura Belpré–winning author Medina cruises into readers’ hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library’s shelves.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, rev. 3/13; Burn Baby Burn, rev. 3/16) consistently and assuredly portrays Latinx girls and women who grapple with their insecurities while learning about themselves and their worlds, and middle-grade heroine Merci is a fine example. Accurate and natural use of Spanish words and sayings that fit each character’s tone builds authenticity. Medina writes with sincerity and humor to convey the experience of growing up in a close-knit family that tends to mingle too much in each other’s business while unfailingly and dedicatedly supporting and helping one another.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
In this warmly told story, Medina (Burn Baby Burn) introduces 11-year-old Merci, descendent of Cuban immigrants, who attends a Florida private school on scholarship with her whip-smart older brother...Medina keeps the tone light as Merci’s take-charge personality helps her to succeed in this coming-of-age tale about family and the perils of sixth grade.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Merci is a relatable character who has her faults but who tries to navigate middle school and stay true to herself and her family. This novel is well-written and contains characters and situations that are complex and realistic. The family’s culture plays a large role in the text. This novel would be a wonderful addition to any library.
—School Library Connection
Fans of school and family dramas will enjoy the usual negotiations and a few fresh twists (Merci ends up friends with Michael but another girl becomes his girlfriend), and they’ll ponder the message that life can be not fair and still worth it.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.
A book packed with truth, love, and questions. Meg Medina shows us how small, real-life moments can add up in powerful ways. Merci Suárez has my heart.
—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award-winning author of When You Reach Me
Read this book so that Merci Suárez will become a light forever shining in your heart. She will remind you of the kind person that you are deep down and of the hero you can be
—Francisco X. Stork
Medina writes with profound respect for her readers, not holding back on showing the circumstances that can make growing up an adventure of ups and downs. . . . Layered with humor, Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a heartwarming story about a smart, talented, and thoughtful girl who refuses to let all that’s changing keep her from holding on to what matters most.
—Renée Watson, author of What Momma Left Me
Meg Medina’s honest and straightforward account of adolescence in Merci Suárez Changes Gears makes her the Judy Blume for a new generation of readers.
—Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez
Meg Medina reminds us that families’ sharing troubles with their youngest members both makes them feel part of the greater whole and empowers them.
—Maria from Sesame Street and author of Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx
But merci, merci me, did I love this girl. Hardheaded but softhearted, she’s a character who really reads like so many middle-school girls. . . . Merci’s got her family issues and her friend issues and her schoolwork and her passions. . . . There are sixth-grade girls like this. Lots of ’em. I’m glad they have Merci.
—Jenesse Evertson, bbgb books, Richmond, VA
I loved this sympathetic, vibrant character who opens her heart as she begins to understand the changes going on around her. She will walk right into your heart, too.
—Carol Moyer, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
Be sure to have Kleenex handy, because you’re going to fall in love with Merci Suárez and her world and I guarantee there will be tears. I read Merci Suárez in just about one sitting and sobbed my way through the last fifty pages. If it made me feel this seen at age thirty-two, I can only imagine the impact it will have on twelve-year-olds.
—Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.
Bravo to Meg Medina! Merci’s story has depth, heart, and authenticity. Her changing relationship with her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is especially poignant.
—Margaret Orto, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.
I LOVED Merci Suárez Changes Gears! I read it in one sitting and was late for everything because I couldn’t walk away from it. . . . Meg Medina has created the kind of heroine that every girl can cheer on, embrace, and see herself in. . . . That Merci still fights for her independence while fiercely loving her familia y cultura is what gives this book such an enduring quality. This is a coming-of-age story that will stay with girls throughout their lives. When we think about the great stories we read as adolescents — like Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — I can see Merci Suaréz right next to them. I wish with all my heart that I had a book like this when I was a niña entering the sixth grade, and it will be such a joy to put it in my customers’ hands.
—Angela Maria Spring, Duende District Bookstore, Washington, D.C.
Meg Medina has scored again with Merci Suárez Changes Gears! . . . I can’t wait to get it in our store next fall!
—Clarissa Hadge, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA
About the Author
Meg Medina is the author of the YA novels Burn Baby Burn; Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, winner of the Pura Belpré Author Award; and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. She also wrote the picture books Mango, Abuela, and Me, a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor Book, and Tía Isa Wants a Car, recipient of an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.
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Make sure you find your way back here on Wednesday as we'll have the great fortune to be joined by author Meg Medina who will be the next distinguished author to face the 7 Questions, and she will change the gears of your writer's mind. So don't miss it:)
Merci Suárez Changes Gears will make you laugh and cry in nearly equal amounts. It's a charming story that's about a lot of things, as is life, but mostly it's about an adolescent girl going through the agony of puberty in a way that made me cringe recalling my own experiences as well as watching my siblings go through that terrible trial of life.
Recently, Little Ninja and I kept a caterpillar in a jelly jar long enough to watch it cocoon for a few days before we released a beautiful butterfly. It was majestic. The transition of a human from a child to a teenager is considerably less so:
"You're not supposed to smell good when you're playing outside," I grumbled, but Tia Inez wouldn't listen. She dumped the whole basket of powders, razors, and deodorants at the cashier's counter just the same.
"Merci, a young lady takes care of herself," she said, hand over her two-for-one coupons. "Like it or not, it's time."
Time for what, exactly? I wanted to know, but I didn't dare ask.
Esteemed Reader, my sixth and seventh grade years were the worst years of my life (and hopefully will always remain so, their ranking unchallenged). A big part of what made them so miserable is that my grandmother's health declined severely and then she died. Typing that sentence just now tore a leak in a carefully preserved packet of sorrow I usually avoid opening and am now quickly resealing because I have things to get done today.
One reason we read stories is to drain the build-up of emotion that accumulates over the average human life. Having a cry at a book or a movie or the new Spider-man video game (so awesome, and so sad) keeps those emotional packets drained to a maintainable level so we're not overwhelmed and can go about living our life without openly weeping at the tragedy of humanity's mortality.
Here's my point made better in the text:
Children don't need to hear life's ugliness. There's plenty of time for that. I've heard Abuela say that before. She hates when books and movies that Roli and I watch are sad or bloody. But that's so dumb. Plenty of sad things happen to kids all the time. Your dog dies. Your parents split up. Your best friend dumps you for someone better. Someone sends you a mean snap message.
Let us ***giggles obnoxiously*** change gears, and get back to the book. Without spoiling, Merci Suárez Changes Gears will provide the reader a few opportunities to drain the build up in their emotional packets (starting to sound like I should see a doctor). Merci's grandfather, Lolo, is in declining health, and that's putting new pressures on Merci's entire family. Chiefly, it's forcing Merci to grow up faster than she'd like and to think of the world in a new way that's significantly less fun, but more nuanced than a child's perspective.
Also, we're going to talk a little about money and social class in a moment, because 1. I love talking about those things, and 2. It's a huge part of this story. But first, let us appreciate Merci's unique family situation. I'd argue that what Merci lacks in material wealth, she makes up for some with the wealth of family (not that you can buy a new bike with that):
Mami only marked the cheapo basic package, and I happen to know (because it said so in gigantic font on the letter we got at home this summer) that picture day at Seaward is one of our biggest school fundraisers. You're supposed to buy a lot, like for your family in Ohio that barely knows you and whatnot. But my family mostly lives on the same block, one house next to the other. We see one another every single day.
How we live confuses some people, so Mami starts her usual explanation. Our three flat-top houses are exact pink triplets, and they sit side by side here on Sixth Street. The one on the left, with the Sol Painting van parked out front, is ours. The one in the middle, with the flower beds, is where Abuela and Lolo live. The one on the right with the explosion of toys in the dirt, belongs to Tia Inez and the twins. Roli calls it the Suárez Compound, but Mami hates that name. She says it sounds like we're the kind of people who collect canned food and wait for the end of the world any minute. She's named it Las Casitas instead. The little houses. I just call it home.
Merci is going through lots of changes and she attends a schmancy private school full of kids with money who are also going through changes, because adolescents in puberty are so terrible, no one wants to be around them but other adolescents (and frequently not even them), so we as a society have determined to keep them centrally located where they can just go be miserable together and leave the rest of us alone:)
Merci and her brother attend Seaward on a scholarship, so that in addition to the usual feeling of no one understanding that accompanies puberty, she's stuck in a place where most of her richer classmates really don't understand. They can try out for the soccer team because their parents can afford the cost of playing accompanied with the loss of a built in babysitter. But Merci has to watch her younger cousins and help out with her father's painting business, which totally sucks and isn't fair at all.
A lesser author might invent a way for Merci to suddenly become rich (like, say, meeting their really rich cousin, Banneker Bones for the first time). Meg Medina is more responsible than that. Without giving the whole thing away, Merci's journey is to grow up and appreciate the good things she has without focusing on what she lacks. She also learns the importance of putting the needs of her family above her own needs, which is a lesson too many adults still haven't learned.
There's a literal plot element of Merci saving to buy a new bike, but the gears she's changing are the metaphorical ones in her mind. What Meg Medina does most successfully in this novel, aside from ripping out her reader's heart, is to put us in the mindset of Merci, who's beginning to notice darker things about the world around her for this first time:
I creep closer to the cruiser as Mami talks, being careful not to make any sudden moves the whole way. Cops are community helpers and all that, but a billy club and gun don't ever look very friendly.
Although it's not the main thrust of the novel, a lot of what Merci is noticing as she mentally changes gears is how fundamentally unfair life in America is. For example, she's invited to a party and told it's a big deal because the host's dad owns a yacht dealership, so she should be thrilled. And there are plenty of other harsh realities for Merci to notice along the way:
Seaward's gym is ginormous, so it took us three whole days to paint it. Plus, our school colors are fire-engine red and gray. You know what happens when you stare at bright red too long? You start to see green balls in front of our eyes every time you look away. Hmpf. Try doing detail work in that blinded condition. For all that, the school should give me and my brother, Roli, a whole library, not just a few measly textbooks. Papi had other ideas, of course. "Do a good job in here," he insisted, "so they know we're serious people." I hate when he says that. Do people think we're clowns? It's like we've always got to prove something.
"Canned? Is this all you have?" Tia asks.
Abuela gives her a withering look. "¡Por Dios! Yes, it's all I have, and there's nothing wrong with it. You were raised on leche evaporada!"
"But the twins only drink fresh milk. You know they're picky about food."
"The twins aren't on social security, Inez."
(in regard to a hospital - MGN) But Abuela's on a roll, and her voice is getting louder. "And why doesn't anybody make house calls anymore? How are two ancianos supposed to get all these appointments? Those silly shuttles that never come on time? And I don't even want to start to tell you about the cost. They charge you the eye on your face, and then they use it to pay for their fancy lobbies with the waterfalls and fish tanks."
And that's where we'll leave it, Esteemed Reader. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is an entertaining and moving novel that's perfect for kids in adolescence and anyone who remembers having gone through the same thing.
Don't miss Meg Medina's interview on Wednesday. As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from Merci Suárez Changes Gears:
I ignore them as best I can and take my turn.
I sit on the stool exactly the way the photographer says: Ankles crossed. Torso swiveled to the left and leaning forward. Hands in lap. Head tilted like a confused puppy. Who sits like this, ever? I look like a victim of taxidermy.
If you want to know all the ways you can be tragically hurt in everyday life, just talk to Abuela. She keeps a long list—and she doesn't mind sharing details.
"Get back from the canal," she yells whenever one of us kids wanders too close to the fence behind our house. "An alligator will close its jaws on you and drag you to the bottom!"
"Put shoes on!" she'll say whenever I'm barefoot. "You'll get worms in your belly the size of spaghetti."
"No offense, Merci, but you're a wreck."
I squeeze my eyes shut, trying not to let my eye stray. It's only Edna being Edna. I should be used to it by now. No offense, Merci, but you're singing off-key. No offense, Merci, but I want to study my spelling words with somebody else. It took me a while to figure Edna out last year, but I finally got wise. No offense is what Edna says right before she takes a hatchet to your feelings.
The patio already looks like a toy chest detonated.
I look at my pen pal assignment: Lena, who sits in the front row and cracks her knuckles. I don't really know her because this is our only class together. Plus, at lunch, she usually reads by herself outside. She got a spiky haircut over the weekend, though, with the ends dyed blue. She looks a little like a hedgehog.
"Things happen over time, Merci," Mami finally says. "We grow up and older. We need to respect how things change and adjust."
Her words jumble out of her mouth and make me angry. "What are you talking about?" I say, cutting her off. "It's all blah, blah, blah. Nobody will tell me what's really wrong!"
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and from Netgalley. I was not required to post a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Merci has been assigned a "buddy" at the start of the school year. Kids get paired up with new students to help make them feel welcome and show them the ropes. The only problem is that Merci is assigned a BOY. How does one reach out to a boy without people thinking you like him? Or making other girls jealous who may have a crush on him. Nothing is going to be easy this year!
As if school is not crazy enough, Merci has been worrying about her grandfather Lolo. He gets confused and has been having a lot of accidents (some that Merci is keeping a secret from her parents). And she doesn't know why popular Edna has all of a sudden started ignoring her and then being downright mean.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears is a great middle school read. I love the model of a strong family. Merci's life is not perfect by any means but she learns that she can count on them to help her through all the changing gears of middle school.