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Staff Reads: Merci Suarez Changes Gears

A photo of Becky the librarian for Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library

Staff Reads: Merci Suarez Changes Gears

by Becky Stuck, Youth Services Librarian

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina – winner of the 2019 John Newbery Medal winner for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature

Merci Suarez Changes Gears, immerses us into the daily life of 11 year old Mercedes “Merci” Suárez, a Cuban-American 6th grader attending an elite private school in South Florida on scholarship.  Merci lives with her parents and older brother in a house on a cul-de-sac where her Abuela and Lolo (grandmother and grandfather), Tía (aunt) Inéz and her twin cousins (who are a bit of a handful) live in the houses right next door.  The extended family lovingly and unfailingly supports each other…babysitting, driving to doctor appointments, helping out with jobs and more.  In particular, Merci and her grandfather, Lolo, have a special tight bond.  This bond is tested when Lolo begins to act erratic and strange indicating something serious is going on that Merci is not privy to. On top of worrying about her grandfather, Merci is learning to navigate life at school including dealing with mean girls, new boys, community service obligations for her scholarship and a yearning to try out for the school soccer team.

Readers will relate to Merci’s school and social adventures (as well as awkward misadventures) as a 6th grader, while soaking up the immigrant Cuban American culture and expectations that may not be familiar to all.  Medina’s writing is sincere and authentic including natural use of Spanish words.  The tone is light and humorous, but also does not shy away from big topics such as bullying, Alzheimers, and socio-economics.

This librarian laughed, cried and by the end of the book, I wanted to hug Merci and eat dinner at her family’s house.  Touching, funny, charming, serious and real…Merci Suarez Changes Gears is a gem of a middle grade coming of age book.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Medina writes…with a touching, humorous authenticity…A stellar and deeply moving story.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Medina writes with sincerity and humor to convey the experience of growing up in a close-knit family that tends to mingle too much in everyone’s business while unfailingly and dedicatedly supporting and helping one another.” – The Horn Book