Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

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Title:   Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Author:  Meg Medina

Publisher: Somerville, Mass.:Candlewick Press, 2013

ISBN: 9780763658595

 About the author:  from https://megmedina.com/about/

Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction.

She is the 2016 recipient of the Pura Belpré honor medal for her picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me, and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award winner for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass , which was also the winner of the 2013 CYBILS Fiction award and the International Latino Book Award. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book Tía Isa Wants a Car. 

Meg’s other books are The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind , a 2012 Bank Street Best Book and CBI Recommended Read in the UK; and Milagros: Girl from Away. 

Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. She brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls.

In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch. 

When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.

Plot:  Piedad “Piddy” Sanchez’s life is in disarray. She and her mom moved to a new apartment, she had to change schools, and she really misses her friends. Now she learns that Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. Who is Yaqui Delgado? They don’t even know each other. Piddy grows and decides to stand up for herself.

Critical Evaluation:

Meg Medina writes a gritty and candid look at violence and bullying in Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Piedad “Piddy” Sanchez needs to grow up emotionally in order to stand up to the bully that plagues her young life.

Piddy’s mom is a busy single mom, who moves her family into a better apartment, and as a result, has to work overtime. This gives Piddy less time to open up her problems to her mother.  Mom is a brooding character who is still hurt by her experience with Piddy’s father.  They met while playing piano. The piano she lets sit in their apartment is symbolic of the pain Piddy’s father left.

This is an angst-filled and disturbing story about the effects of bullying in schools. Medina writes of teenager living a life with the threat of a bully shadowing constantly in the background.  We get the uneasy sense that things are not going to be all right. The story ominously takes us through Piddy’s first days at her new school. Trouble is foreshadowed right from the start of school, when a girl comes up to Piddy and tells her, “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass”.

In Piddy’s world, there is the never-ending presence of bullying, domestic abuse, and school violence. Piddy Sanchez is having a difficult time telling anyone that she is being bullied. She tries to take care of the problem herself, but not confiding in a trusted adult exacerbates the problem. The threat of violence is alluded to in a few different ways. There is the mention of school shootings in general, “Mr. Flatwell glances at his watch and leads us inside, past the volunteer at the “Shoot Me First” Welcome Desk…” Teens have different and new threats of violence at school. News of school shootings, bullying abound. Ironically, there are school flyers posted about the problem of bullying, “…one poster catches my eye. It has a bulldog inside a circle with a diagonal red line. BULLY-FREE ZONE. STAND UP. SPEAK OUT, it says. I almost laugh out loud.” In spite of all the “no bullying” environment at school, nobody seems to notice that all the signs were there that Piddy was a victim of bullying.

Yaqui is a one-dimensional character, so we never get to know her motivations. All we know is that she enjoys inflicting pain on Piddy, and that she lives in a housing project that may or may not signify a troubled childhood.

Of facing her attacker Piddy says, “I grip my charm tighter. All I can think about is Yaqui Delgado’s eyes, about what kind of cloak she wears, what kind of dagger she’ll run through me.” Piddy’s elephant pendant is then ripped off of her neck by Yaqui. The pendant was a gift she received from her mom on a trip to the zoo.  The elephant is symbolic of Piddy’s future dreams of becoming a veterinarian. If Piddy doesn’t seek help, her dreams might not come to fruition.

An authentic character, we are sympathetic to Piddy.  She is awkward about not knowing how to handle with the situation, and flawed in that she doesn’t get the help he needs from a trusted adult right away.

There is a constant foreboding that Yaqui is lurking around every corner waiting to pounce on Piddy like a predatory cat. Slowly, Piddy starts to lose the few friends she has made at her new school, “My trouble might be contagious, and no one wants to catch this social disease.” There is a sense that everything is open-ended, since Yaqui is such an elusive character. Piddy is accosted in an accusatory fashion by one of Yaqui’s minions.

A heartbreaking violent attack ensues, and Piddy slowly transforms from a great student, to one who is afraid to walk outside. Medina encapsulates the tragedy of bullying and the importance of seeking help.

Internally, she questions whether or not to tell. “If I tell him about Yaqui, everything will just get worse. Being a narc means you’re too weak to take care of yourself. You need a grown-up to be your shield. Where will that leave me? I’ll be even more of a social outcast than I am now —open season for anyone to get after me.”

She can’t change her past, but she takes charge of her future, “I’ve been thinking lately that growing up is like walking through glass doors that only open one way —you can see where you came from but can’t go back. That’s how it is for me, anyway.” Slowly, she realizes that life will continue forward.

Reader’s Annotation: Yaqui wants to kick Piddy’s ass, but they don’t even know each other!

Genre: realistic fiction, contemporary fiction

Curriculum Ties: social science, social responsibility, bullying

Booktalking Ideas:  Have a discussion: What do you do when a bully singles you out? What are ways to open up and talk to the trusted adults in your life?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues— bullying, violence, profanity, gangs

Challenge Resources 

  • Library Selection Policy
  • Rationale explaining why the item was chosen for the collection
  • Active listening skills
  • Awards
  • Reconsideration form (as a last resort)
  • National Council of Teachers of English “Right to Read”
  • Positive and negative reviews: expert, parent, student
  • ALA Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials
  • ALA Bill of Rights on Intellectual Freedom
  • Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  • Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Why did you pick this for your collection?  

  • ALA Notable Children’s Books – Older Readers Category: 2014
  • Pura Belpre Award (Narrative)
  • School Library Journal Best Books: 2013
  • Westchester Fiction Award (California)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2014
  • YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: Fiction: 2014
  • YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: Top Ten: 2014