cover image I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erika L. Sánchez. Knopf, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-0048-5

Why isn’t 15-year-old Julia Reyes a perfect Mexican daughter in her mother’s eyes? Mostly because of her older sister, Olga, who puts family first, listens to her parents, and dresses conservatively. Julia, by contrast, argues with her mother, talks back at school, and dreams of becoming a famous writer. When Olga dies suddenly, Julia is left wishing that they had been closer and grieving what she sees as Olga’s wasted life. And when she starts to suspect that Olga might not have been so perfect, she follows every clue. Sánchez’s debut novel covers a lot of ground, including Julia’s day-to-day activities in Chicago, her college ambitions, her first boyfriend (who is white and comes from a wealthy neighborhood), her difficult relationship with her overprotective parents, and her search for Olga’s secrets. As the book moves along, Julia’s frustration with the many constraints she lives under—poverty, family expectations, and conditioning that she resents but can’t quite ignore—reaches dangerous levels. Julia is a sympathetic character, but Sánchez’s often expository writing keeps her and her struggles at arm’s length. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michelle Brower, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary. (Oct.)