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Mexican High: A Novel Hardcover – June 10, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—Mila, the daughter of an ex-hippie diplomat, has settled into her Washington, DC, high school very nicely after stints in Asia, Europe, and South America. She's a straight-A cheerleader heading into her senior year in 1993 when her mother drops the bomb: she has been reassigned to Mexico City. Although intrigued by the possibility of discovering her mysteriously anonymous father, Mila is resistant and resentful of the move. Feeling insecure when faced with the ultrarich cliques of her international high school and reeling from a date rape, her good-girl, preppy self disappears as pot, Ecstasy, acid, cocaine, and peyote become part of her routine; much of the narrative is taken up with drinking in nightclubs, procuring drugs, and bribing policemen. The famously corrupt political arena becomes personal in more ways than one. The prose is dense, full of details about daily life, and the teen packs a lot of living into her senior year (yet still manages to get into Harvard). The Mila that narrates from a later date is sometimes a little too wise and philosophical, and her attitude toward the drugs and sex that punctuate the teens' lives goes quickly from shocked innocence to world-weary nonchalance. Teens who enjoy reading about the exploits of the young, rich, and virtually parentless (think "Gossip Girl") will enjoy this book.—Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA
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Praise for Mexican High
“Liza Monroy, wise beyond her years, brilliantly portrays the highs and lows and loves of school life, the episodes we’ve all experienced and never forget. Spirited, harrowing, and utterly compelling, Monroy’s captivating voice will be with you long after you’ve finished reading.”
—Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
“Liza Monroy’s coming of age story set in Mexico manages to be hot, hilarious, and heartbreaking—all at the same time. A stunning debut.”
—Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and Five Men Who Broke My Heart
“Liza Monroy has a magical voice, the kind that makes you want to read the next sentence and then the one after that to see what turn her writing will take next. She is observant, funny, and curiously wise about the culture we live and flounder in.”
—Daphne Merkin, author of Dreaming of Hitler and Enchantment
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Top Customer Reviews
As a Spanish-speaker, Mila is able to penetrate the rarefied stratum of the school's social elite, the "fresa" set, while retaining her Mexican-American suspicions of all they represent: conspicuous consumption, social elitism, and Mexico's abysmal racial divide. Here lies the novel's real value. Mila's awakening to injustice and the marginalization of the darker-skinned majority repeatedly rings true, as do her conflicted reactions to the rich. Mexican high society can indeed entice: so beautiful to look at, so stylishly dressed, such easy charm, such cosmopolitanism. The way Mila lets herself be sucked in by all that, despite her egalitarian instincts, is entirely credible. So is her gradual withdrawal from such company, which stops short of complete. Monroy is careful to shade her wealthiest characters: some are wholly irresponsible, others have at least a glimmer of moral awareness. There's plenty to disgust in Mexican High, but this is not a merciless satire of high-income idiocy à la Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One.
Mila's voice sounds too mature for a 16-year old, and her barely-tamed exuberance for narcotics may irk some readers. Monroy could have done more to flesh out the lives of the maids, gardeners and chauffeurs who hustle to make the cosy lives of the rich yet cosier. Mention of Mila taking the subway home at 3 a.m., when in fact it shuts at midnight, raises doubts over Monroy's familiarity with the lifestyles of the city's less well-off; so does a reference to a cab driver with a cell-phone (common now but never then). Otherwise, her eye for detail is impressive, and anyone who knew the metropolis in the 1990s will feel nostalgia for its popular haunts. Peppered with poignant moments of adolescent yearning and disappointment, this is a lively critique of a world rarely glimpsed in English-language writing.