- The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7211-1 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7213-5 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10
Margot is her father and mother’s “princesa,” and her Puerto Rican family is all about appearances in their middle-class neighborhood in the Bronx. When Margot steals her father’s credit card to buy clothes that will help her fit in with the kids at her prep school, then, it seems to her entirely unfair that her father sentences her to a summer working in the family supermarket. While there, she meets Moises, a budding community activist, to whom she’s drawn (though she also has her sights set on a boy from school with a house in the Hamptons). When she finds out that her brother is selling and using drugs and that her father is having an affair with one of his cashiers, her summer ends in a series of personal epiphanies that befit these reveals, and Margot has to learn what it means to get real with herself and her situation. This slice-of-life drama holds few surprises in terms of plot or character arc; it’s clear from the beginning that Margot’s desire to fit in at her school through abandoning her former friends and giving up her own style is a dubious project that she will eventually give up, and the clues she misses about her father and brother will not be missed by the reader. As a result, the lessons for Margot are laid out one by one: accept your family and community despite their flaws, and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. On the plus side, there is no phony forgiveness or overly romanticized compensation for the things that go wrong, other than, perhaps, the change in Margot’s character from a constant complainer to a person who grimly accepts and tries to make the best of the inevitable. Give this to readers who like their realism straight-up with a side of message.