Fiction, March 2020

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves. February 11, 2020. HarperTeen, 323 p. ISBN: 9780062489883.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again the fall.

Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger.

As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs; Mild sexual themes; Strong language

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Seventeen-year-old David Espinoza is sick and tired of being too skinny. After getting caught on video on the last day of school as a bully lays him out cold with a slap across the face, David begins to withdraw, deciding to devote himself to bulking up before the start of the next school year. He finds a gym close to home, run by a well-known young bodybuilder, but after a few workouts and not enough gains, he comes to the realization that all the YouTube bodybuilders he’s been following might well have bulked up with some extra help: steroids. David’s journey to an ideal body is fraught with pitfalls as he alienates his girlfriend and his family, develops muscle dysmorphia, and witnesses some truly horrific side effects of steroid use among his new friends. Aceves (The Closest I’ve Come, 2017) sometimes focuses more on the problem of steroids than David as a character, but the book still stands out through its examination of toxic masculinity, body image, and the dangers of pursuing perfection.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2019)
An intense look at male body dysmorphia from the author of The Closest I’ve Come (2017).David Espinoza has always been tormented for his skinny physique, but when the high school bully slaps him in the locker room and catches it on camera, the video becomes a viral meme in his Florida town. The Mexican American teen decides to join a gym and build enough muscle over the summer to lay to rest the incessant teasing. There, he meets bodybuilders who influence him to take steroids in order to speed up the results. With graphic detail, Aceves presents the psychological, physical, and emotional effects of muscle dysmorphia. David’s relationships fall apart—with his family, friends, girlfriend—and the author, who also experienced this disorder in his youth, authentically delineates the ramifications of this illness, which is more prevalent than many believe. After a shocking climax, David finally comes to grips with his addiction, perhaps a little too quickly, but readers won’t mind the not-so-pat resolution. Frank discussions about the sexual lives and drug use of adolescents add authenticity to the story, and the expletive-laden prose makes this more appropriate for older teens. Toxic masculinity, which is cringingly part and parcel of the testosterone-filled world that Aceves portrays, is threaded through the narrative in a contextualized way. David’s friends are mostly Latinx—he has a Puerto Rican girlfriend and a Dominican best friend Searing and thoughtful. (author’s note, resources) (Realistic fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Fred Aceves was born in New York to A Mexican father, and a Dominican mother, which makes him 100% Mexican, 100% Dominican, and 100% American. He spent most of his youth in Southern California and Tampa, Florida, where he lived in a poor, working class neighborhood. At the age of 21 he started traveling around the world, living in Chicago, New York, The Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, his father’s native land.

Among other jobs, he has worked as a delivery driver, server, cook, car salesman, freelance editor, and teacher of English as a second language. His website is fredaceves.com/

Around the Web

The New David Espinoza on Amazon

The New David Espinoza on Barnes and Noble

The New David Espinoza on Goodreads

The New David Espinoza on LibraryThing

The New David Espinoza Publisher Page

Fiction, November 2019

Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles

Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles. September 17, 2019. Charlesbridge Teen, 260 p. ISBN: 9781580897785.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez was her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days–that and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her gang leader brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her gang needs running, when her mami can’t brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is- will the gang let her go?

Set in New Jersey in 1984, Beatriz’s story is a timeless one of a teenager’s navigation of romance, gang culture, and her own family’s difficult past. A companion novel to the much-lauded Like Vanessa.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Homophobic slur, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Violence, Domestic abuse, Marijuana dealing

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. Beatriz, first introduced in Charles’ Like Vanessa (2018), wanted to dance and become famous for it, until the day of her fifteenth birthday, when a rival gang drove by her family’s bodega and murdered her brother, Junito. He’d been the head of the Diablos, and Beatriz a blossoming Diabla, though she still harbored her dreams of meeting Debbie Allen and making her Fame dreams come true. After her brother was taken from her, though, she stopped dancing. It takes her a year of floating along with the Diablos and trying to do what she thinks Junito would have wanted before she goes back to dreaming and, ultimately, becoming whom she was meant to be. Though the situations and story line are heavy, and the average modern reader might not easily relate to a gang in the ’80s, Beatriz’s often funny, descriptive first-person narrative is a welcoming avenue into her story. Readers with diverse backgrounds will feel at home with Beatriz’s identities as Latina, Black, and American, and everyone will be cheering her on, right up until the satisfying, heartwarming end.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2019)
In a city where “cocaine is king,” can a teenage gang leader dare to dream of another life? Newark, New Jersey. 1984. Beatriz Mendez and her older brother, Junito, lead the powerful Latin Diablos gang. Everything changes on Beatriz’s 15th birthday when a Haitian gang leaves Junito for dead and Beatriz badly injured. A Like Vanessa (2018) spinoff, this page-turner opens dramatically with a visceral fight scene that introduces a fierce protagonist. Beatriz is a Spanglish-speaking Puerto Rican badass with “a blade tucked inside [her] cheek…to use on anybody who tries to step.” In the aftermath of Junito’s death, Beatriz struggles to maintain her standing as a Diabla, raise her grades (mostly D’s and F’s), and support her grief-stricken zombie of a mother. Though “dancing ain’t gonna pay the bills,” she allows her childhood dream of becoming a dancer to glimmer through her tough exterior each week when watching her favorite TV show, Fame. Told in the first person, this narrative is full of passion and humor, with flashbacks rooted in Beatriz’s beloved salsa music. Realistic newsprint clips effectively add context. A friendship/romance with a new boy contributes depth while avoiding predictability. As Beatriz transcends her trauma and self-doubt—“No such thing as a gangbanger turned famous dancer”—readers experience a necessary portrayal of a young Afro-Latina woman who makes her own path, one that isn’t straightforward, told in an extremely realistic voice. Inspiring and fresh. (historical notes) (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Tami Charles is a former teacher and full-time author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made it her mission to introduce her students to all types of literature, but especially diverse books. While it was refreshing to see a better selection than what she was accustomed to as a child, Tami felt there weren’t nearly as many diverse books as she’d hoped for. It was then that she decided to reignite her passion for writing. Tami is the author of the middle grade novel Like Vanessa (2018) and the picture book Freedom Soup (2019).

Her website is www.tamiwrites.com.

Teacher Resources

Becoming Beatriz Reading Guide with Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Becoming Beatriz on Amazon

Becoming Beatriz on Barnes and Noble

Becoming Beatriz on Goodreads

Becoming Beatriz on LibraryThing

Becoming Beatriz Publisher Page