Merci Suárez Changes Gears - book cover
Growing Up & Facts of Life
  • Publisher : Candlewick
  • Published : 07 Apr 2020
  • Pages : 368
  • ISBN-10 : 153621258X
  • ISBN-13 : 9781536212587
  • Language : English

Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Winner of the Newbery Medal
A New York Times Bestseller

"The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina's life is one many readers will relate to. . . . Medina cruises into readers' hearts." - School Library Journal (starred review)

Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, as strong and thoughtful as Merci is, she has never been completely like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don't have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci's school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna's jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci's grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately - forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. And Merci is left to her own worries, because no one in her family will tell her what's going on. Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal, this coming-of-age tale by New York Times best-selling author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school - and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Editorial Reviews

Caught between the world of family and peers, the comfort of Las Casitas and the enticing new call of independence, Merci Suárez is a delightful heroine who, despite real challenges, never wavers in her strong sense of self or her fierce love for la familia. Readers will appreciate watching her navigate how to hold on to what matters when it feels like everything is changing.
-The New York Times Book Review

A beautiful book, an important work. -R. J. Palacio, New York Times best-selling author of Wonder

Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a tenderhearted, funny, realistic, and ultimately heartbreaking story. -R. J. Palacio, New York Times best-selling author of Wonder

Meg Medina is the author I studied, and still study, to learn how to write for children. Her ear is impeccable; the way she captures not only dialogue but also communicates adolescent feelings without being condescending nor pitching extra soft softballs. Few people get the balance of writing about and for teens right.
-Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times bestselling author

Medina's breathtaking coming-of-age story features a strong, deeply honest protagonist whose insights will make readers laugh, as well as dynamic secondary characters that reveal glimmers of profound depth. Medina capably gets to the heart of middle school experiences in this engrossing story of a kid growing into herself. A must read.
-Booklist (starred review)

Medina writes about the joys of multigenerational home life (a staple of the Latinx community) with a touching, humorous authenticity. Merci's relationship with Lolo is heartbreakingly beautiful and will particularly strike readers who can relate to the close, chaotic, and complicated bonds of live-in grandparents. Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story.
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina's life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it's the ride that matters. Pura Belpré–winning author Medina cruises into readers' hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library's shelves.
-School Library Journal (starred review)

Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, rev. 3/13; Burn Baby Burn, rev. 3/16) consistently and assuredly portrays Latinx girls and women who grapple with their insecurities while learning about themselves and their worlds, and middle-grade heroine Merci is a fine example. Accurate and natural use of Spanish words and sayings that fit each character's tone builds authenticity. Medina writes with sincerity and humor to convey the experience of growing up...

Readers Top Reviews

S Jemmotte
This was a lovely book and story. I’ve recommended it to both my kids, boy and girl! I know they’d enjoy it too.
Alexandra P.
Merci Suarez was such a cute read! My 11-year-old son and I both read and loved it. I'm a sucker for books about family and identity, and this was one such book. I instantly found myself rooting for Merci and truly felt her joys and disappointments. Medina does a wonderful job crafting characters we care about and delivering plenty of heartfelt moments.
JR in CA
This book touched my soul! It's just so sweet and touching; so poignant and moving. It's filled with humor, elements of family life we can all relate to and lessons young people can take away about growing up and the changes and curve balls life invariably throws at all of us. The writing is superb and there are so many sweet little elements of Cuban culture and family life that will either resonate (I have Cuban family members) or educate. Truly an outstanding novel from an extraordinary author and leading voice for the times we are living in. I literally laughed and cried. You will LOVE this book.
DCS TeacherLA in Dal
I am only 3 chapters into this book so I will review it again when I finish. However, it might take me awhile because I do not speak Spanish and I have had to stop multiple times to translate. There needs to be better context clues or some way to get the definition of words presented otherwise it will be difficult for non-Spanish speakers to flow along with the story. I love the Spanish! It needs to be accessible for those who cannot understand the words. This just seems like something an author or editor would have thought of. I am sure the story and message will be phenomenal based on what I have read so far, but lots of student readers I know would put this down because they get lost.

Short Excerpt Teaser

To think, only yesterday I was in chancletas, sipping lemonade and watching my twin cousins run through the sprinkler in the yard. Now, I'm here in Mr. Patchett's class, sweating in my polyester school blazer and waiting for this torture to be over.
We're only halfway through health and PE when he adjusts his tight collar and says, "Time to go."
I stand up and push in my chair, like we're always supposed to, grateful that picture day means that class ends early. At least we won't have to start reading the first chap-ter in the textbook: "I'm OK, You're OK: On Differences as We Develop."
"Coming, Miss Suárez?" he asks me as he flips off the lights.
That's when I realize I'm the only one still waiting for him to tell us to line up.  Everyone else has already headed out the door.
This is sixth grade, so there won't be one of the PTA moms walking us down to the photographer. Last year, our escort pumped us up by gushing the  whole way about how handsome and beautiful we all looked on the first day of school, which was a stretch since a few of us had mouthfuls of braces or big gaps between our front teeth.
But that's over now. Here at Seaward Pines Academy, sixth-graders don't have the same teacher all day, like Miss Miller in the fifth grade. Now we have homerooms and lockers. We switch classes. We can finally try out for sports teams.
And we know how to get ourselves down to picture day just fine -     or at least the rest of my class does. I grab my new book bag and hurry out to join the others.
It's a wall of heat out here. It won't be a far walk, but August in Florida is brutal, so it doesn't take long for my glasses to fog up and the curls at my temples to spring into tight coils. I try my best to stick to the shade near the building, but it's hopeless. The slate path that winds to the front of the gym cuts right across the quad, where there's not a single scrawny palm tree to shield us. It makes me wish we had one of those thatch-roof walkways that my grandfather Lolo can build out of fronds.
"How do I look?" someone asks.
I dry my lenses on my shirttail and glance over. We're all in the same uniform, but some of the girls got special hairdos for the occasion, I notice. A few were even flat-ironed; you can tell from the little burns on their necks. Too bad they don't have some of my curls. Not that everyone appreciates them, of course. Last year, a kid named Dillon said I look like a lion, which was fine with me, since I love those big cats. Mami is always nagging me about keeping it out of my eyes, but she doesn't know that hid-ing behind it is the best part. This morning, she slapped a school- issue headband on me. All it's done so far is give me a headache and make my glasses sit crooked.
"Hey," I say. "It's a broiler out here. I know a shortcut."
The girls stop in a glob and look at me. The path I'm pointing to is clearly marked with a sign.
No one in this crowd is much for breaking rules, but sweat is already beading above their glossed lips, so maybe they'll be sensible. They're looking to one another, but mostly to Edna Santos.
"Come on, Edna," I say, deciding to go straight to the top. "It's faster, and we're melting out here."
She frowns at me, considering the options. She may be a teacher's pet, but I've seen Edna bend a rule or two.  Making faces outside our classroom if she's on a bathroom pass.  Changing an answer for a friend when we're self-checking a quiz. How much worse can this be?
I take a step closer. Is she taller than me now? I pull back my shoulders just in case. She looks older somehow than she did in June, when we were in the same class.  Maybe it's the blush on her cheeks or the mascara that's making little raccoon circles under her eyes? I try not to stare and just go for the big guns.
"You want to look sweaty in your picture?" I say. 
Cha- ching.
In no time, I'm leading the pack of us along the gravel path. We cross the maintenance parking lot, dodging debris. Back here is where Seaward hides the riding mow-ers and all the other untidy equipment they need to make the campus look like the brochures. Papi and I parked here last summer when we did some painting as a trade for our book fees. I don't tell anyone that, though, because Mami says it's "a private matter." But mostly, I keep quiet because I'm trying to erase the memory.  Seaward's gym is ginormous, so it took us three whole days to paint it. Plus, our school colors are fire- engine red and gray. You know what happens when you stare at bright red too long? You start to see green balls in front of your eyes every time you look away. Hmpf. Try doing detail work in that blind...