The sixth out of eleven books to read from NetGalley this month (and yes, I’m aware it’s the 27th and I’m not going to do it; I am part-way through both “Yinka …” and “An African in Greenland” at the moment so I think I’ve done OK). This is another excellent debut novel; I’ve been so lucky to read a few really good ones recently, thanks to NetGalley.

Erika L. Sanchez – “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter”

(6 Feb 2022)

“I’m from Chicago, I like books, pizza, and David Bowie. My favorite color is red. Your turn.”

“But where are you from from?”

“I’m from Chicago, I just told you.”

“No, what I I mean is … Forget it.” Connor looks embarrassed.

“You mean you want to know my ethnicity. What kind of brown I am.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Connor smiles apologetically.

“I’m Mexican. You could’ve just asked, you know?” I can’t help but smirk. “I prefer it when people are straightforward.”

“Yeah, I see your point. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s cool. What about you, though?” Where are you from? What are you into?”

“Umm … Evanston, burgers, and drums.”

“But where are you from from?”

Connor laughs. “I’m a typical American mutt – German, Irish, Italian and-“

“Wait, wait” Let me guess. Your great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess.”

“No, I was going to say Spanish.”

“Ah yes, our conquerors. And your favorite color?”

The book opens notably with our heroine, Julia, looking at the body of her sister, Olga, who was the perfect Mexican daughter, killed by a car in their hometown of Chicago, travelling from the community college back home, where she helped their mum cook and clean and also do her cleaning jobs outside the home.

Julia is very different. She’s a writer, and she’s keen to break away and go to a big college in New York or another city. While her best friend Lorena seems happy with her life obsessed with boys and not wanting to move away, Julia wants more, although Lorena’s path is equally validated, reminding me of the three boys in “Good Intentions“. When she realises there might have been something they didn’t know to Olga’s seemingly quiet life, she tries to work out what was going on; her geographical world also starts to shift slightly as she meets her first boyfriend, Connor and starts hanging out in his more middle-class neighbourhood.

When a crisis hits and is sent home to her grandmother in Mexico, she learns more about the mum she clashes with, once a rebellious teenager herself, and her dad’s secret artistic leanings. She also learns more about just how their journey across the border played out. But will that change her need to escape from her family life in Chicago, or will her time out of school affect her college chances?

The book is subtly done; in the mental health outpatients’ unit, Julia learns about different ways to cope and has a role model in the form of her counsellor; while Connor offers to help her hack into Olga’s laptop, she manages it on her own; Julia’s poverty and their inequity is shown nicely when she can’t afford lunch on a trip out while he plans on wasting money on amusing thrift-store purchases; and not all secrets are told, while characters do come to understand one another better.

There’s a list of mental health resources, an interview with the author and readers’ group questions in the back of the book, and America Ferrera is making it into a Netflix series, so plenty of extras; I think it would do well as a book group read and extends beyond the YA audience.

Thank you to Oneworld Publications for selecting me to read this book in return for an honest review. “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” was published on 3 March 2022.

A couple of Bookish Beck Book Serendipity moments centred around this novel. In this book and the previous one I read, “Duane’s Depressed” we get details of the therapeutic relationship with a psychotherapist. More surprisingly and notably, this one, “Duane” and my next read, Richard King’s “The Lark Ascending” all have mentions of Thoreau, perhaps more surprising here where he pops up as someone the heroine has read about. Last one, which I might as well include – Richard King talks about both Margaret Atwood and her environmentalism in general and her championing of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and I’ve just read Atwood’s chapter on that very book in her new collection of essays.