Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Multigenerational Family Problems
Merci lives next door to her grandparents, Abuela and Lolo, and her aunt and younger twin cousins. Her father has a house painting company, and she and her older brother Roli go to a fancy private school on scholarship so that they have every opportunity. Merci finds it a bit difficult to deal with her well-t-o-do classmates, especially the snooty Edna, who is one reason that Merci is saving up her money for a fancy new bike. Merci has to be a Sunshine Buddy and is assigned to Michael, a new student from Minnesota, and isn't thrilled to have to show him around, especially since Edna "like likes" him and makes life difficult for Merci. Merci doesn't need help with that-- her Lolo is having trouble with his memory, and her aunt needs someone to watch the twins, so Merci is not allowed to try out for the school soccer team. There are a lot of school projects being assigned, and Merci sometimes has to work with Edna on them, with disastrous results. As her grandfather's memory worsens, her brother applies to colleges, and the family has to deal with a number of struggles, Merci needs to learn to grow up and help her family instead of being focused only on her own personal concerns.
This is a good transition by Medina, who has both picture books and young adult novels to her credit. There are a lot of topics being covered, which makes this book a bit on the long side, but her feel for middle grade emotions and reactions is on point.
Mental diminution in the elderly is a topic that young readers should have some knowledge of, since many of them will face problems with their grandparents before they are too much older. It always surprises me that families don't expect or discuss After my mother was diagnosed with Parkinsons a dozen years ago, we told the girls exactly what to expect. My mother is doing fairly well for 84, but none of us are surprised when she is confused. I guess it makes a better story the other way, since almost all books dealing with grandparents and dementia react with denial.