Many of us feel that sometimes we are in pieces and wonder how all of the bits of our being will hang together when things seem to be falling apart. Such is the scenario for Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. Written in diary format–along with occasional poems and dialogue–the novel details the pieces of Gabi Hernandez, a teen trying to overcome challenges in life while finding her true self.
The pieces that Gabi grapples with is many—she has a father who is addicted to meth, a best friend who discovers she is pregnant, and another friend who is kicked out of his home for being gay. And there’s more: she questions many different things in her life, including religion, culture, family, and sex…all of these are slices of Gaby’s life that she feels are breaking apart. In actuality, though, Gabi is pretty together even though she doesn’t see it that way. She sees herself as a gordita, or fatgirl, and her insights about all of these things are reflected, humorously at times, in the novel, which begins with the following entry:
My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.
As the book proceeds, we learn about Gabi’s struggles through her honest reflections as we barrel through the segments or days her life. At times, humor dominates the day, as demonstrated in this Oct. 31 entry: “Halloween was stupid. As usual.”
Other times, sentimental honesty take center stage, as in this entry: “QUESTIONS I WOULD LIKE TO ASK MY MOTHER BUT AM AFRAID TO BECAUSE SHE WILL PROBABLY THINK I AM: A) BAD B) WHITEWASHED, AND/OR C) ALL OF THE ABOVE.”
At times, I relished the naiveté Gabi demonstrated. Other times, I was saddened when her innocence dissipated into the landscape of her life. Throughout it all, Gabi fights through the words in her diary, poetry, and zine. Writing became a way for her to deal with her struggles, and she noted that “Now I know why Sylvia Plath had so much to write about. Writing when you’re sad is so much easier. And it makes you feel a little better.”
Gabi’s not perfect, and her entries demonstrate this, but it is her honest, resilient voice that creates a complete picture of a girl not in pieces but an intelligent, inspiring girl worth knowing.
Quintero’s views on “Why I Write” is worth exploring: