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A Review of "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" by Erika L. Sanchez

Jasmine is an avid reader of young adult fiction books who obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Clemson University.

Erika L. Sánchez, author of "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter"

Erika L. Sánchez, author of "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter"

About Erika L. Sánchez

Erika L. Sánchez is a poet and writer. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is Sánchez's debut novel and was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She is also the author of a poetry collection called Lessons on Expulsion. She attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, then earned an MFA in poetry from the University of New Mexico.

Quick Facts

  • Release Date: October 17th, 2017
  • Pages: 343
  • Genre: Young-adult fiction
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Plot Summary

Erika L. Sánchez's young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, follows Julia, a 15-year-old Mexican-American girl who has dreams and aspirations of becoming a famous writer. Along the way, there are many things that she experiences. Of them, the most predominant are the pressures, stereotypes, and expectations of growing up in a Mexican-American home and the cultural baggage that comes with that experience.

To Julia and her family, her older sister Olga was seemingly the "perfect" Mexican0-American daughter, something that Julia felt that she could never measure up to no matter how hard she tried. While Olga wants to stay home, close to her family, and not go to college, Julia's main ambition is to go away to college to study writing and to move out of her parents' house after her high school graduation.

However, to Julia's family, typical perfect Mexican American daughters never abandon their families. Throughout the novel, Julia and her mother often get into brutal arguments with each other and rarely see eye to eye on issues that pertain to Julia's lifestyle and future aspirations, given that Julia wants to leave home to further her education and learn more about becoming a writer.

Julia and her family are also still processing the death of Olga. In particular, her mother uses that grief to point out how much Julia is unlike Olga regarding being the perfect daughter and where she fails in that particular area, which leads to more and more tension between the two. Throughout the novel, the strained and distant relationship between mother and daughter is what leads to more problems for Julia.

Sanchez's poignant novel takes an unexpected plot twist when Julia discovers that Olga may not have been as perfect as everyone had originally thought. Julia discovers that her older sister may have been keeping a significant secret from her family—and most importantly, her mother—in the hopes of keeping her clean, perfect daughter image together. When Julia discovers Olga's potentially life-changing secret, she ponders the possibility of telling their mother the truth about Olga, which would greatly distort her innocent image. Regardless, Julia is eager to find out the truth about her sister.

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Sánchez also touches on the topic of first love and first relationships. Along the way, Julia encounters her first love and boyfriend in Connor, who she meets in a used bookstore. The novel also presents darker themes and issues such as self-esteem and self-harm. At later points in the story, the weight of the problems in Julia's life take a toll on the rebellious teen's mental health. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter also follows Julia on her path towards reconciliation and understanding in her strained relationship with her mother. Though they have many fights and disagreements, the two eventually begin reach common ground.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is an invigorating and captivating work told from a unique perspective rarely seen in most young-adult literary works. Julia, for some people, could be seen as the emblem for a difficult and challenging character. However, her story revolves around her struggles with her culture and background and the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home. Factor in the weight of her sister's death and the grief that the family is experiencing, and Julia possesses a rather unique situation and voice. Julia is a powerful character, and her unconventional situation reveals a lot about the effect that our culture and identity have on us as individuals.

The Takeaway

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter would be a great read for fans of Jane the Virgin in that one of the main components of the novel is Julia's wittiness and fearlessness. Julia's bold and ferocious personality is one of the highlights of the novel.

Many thematic elements occur throughout the novel, the most dominant ones being cultural pressures and expectations, mental health, and grief. I would rate this novel four out of five stars and would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a story from a fresh and unique perspective and voice not often seen in young adult novels.

© 2020 Jasmine Bryson


Louisa young from Lagos Nigeria on September 16, 2020:

Cool I must find this book

Literarycreature from Argentina on September 12, 2020:

I have never read a book by this author, but you piqued my curiosity with your review. I might give it a try!

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