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Merci Suárez Changes Gears

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Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina. Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina. Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been 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. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.


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Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina. Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina. Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been 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. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

30 review for Merci Suárez Changes Gears

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    3.5 stars roundup A middle grade novel with plenty of heart, Merci Suarez Changes Gears is the kind of novel that young readers with large extended family will gravitate towards. Heartwarming is not a word I use too often in my reviews, but it is certainly warranted in regards to this book. Like Merci, I was close to my grandparents and even lived with my paternal grandparents for a time when I was a teenager. I loved the author's note too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Juli

    Sixth grade is a tough year for every child. As a scholarship student at an expensive academy, it's even tougher for Merci Suarez. Not only does she have to learn to endure middle school where she doesn't always feel she fits in with her classmates, but she also has to start growing up and facing changes. Not just changes in herself, but changes in her family as well. Her brother is getting ready to leave for college and her grandfather is showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's a time of Sixth grade is a tough year for every child. As a scholarship student at an expensive academy, it's even tougher for Merci Suarez. Not only does she have to learn to endure middle school where she doesn't always feel she fits in with her classmates, but she also has to start growing up and facing changes. Not just changes in herself, but changes in her family as well. Her brother is getting ready to leave for college and her grandfather is showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's a time of change and lessons to learn. Merci Suarez faces them with strength and intelligence. I'm really impressed by the selection of children's books published by Candlewick Press. Every book I have read has just been outstanding! Merci Suarez Changes Gears touches on some major topics for middle school girls -- the end of childhood, growing up, taking more responsibility, seeing grandparents age, the pain of older siblings leaving home, learning to love and care for smaller children in the family, and just the joys and stress of living with extended family. This book is heart-felt, emotional and completely awesome! Merci learns to think of others and grows up a bit, while learning to live in her own skin and love the person she is. Wonderful story! Meg Medina has written several books for the YA and middle grade audience. I will definitely be reading more by this author! **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Candlewick Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wendi Lee

    Merci hates change, but sixth grade means other kids are starting to act differently (why are the girls giggling around the boys). She’s paired with a new boy in the Sunshine Club, which gives mean girl Edna ammunition to tease Merci relentlessly. And then there’s Merci’s grandfather, Lolo, who is changing in ways that none of Merci’s family wants to talk about. I loved this middle grade novel, which perfectly captures what it feels like to be a tween in a large extended family, maneuvering thro Merci hates change, but sixth grade means other kids are starting to act differently (why are the girls giggling around the boys). She’s paired with a new boy in the Sunshine Club, which gives mean girl Edna ammunition to tease Merci relentlessly. And then there’s Merci’s grandfather, Lolo, who is changing in ways that none of Merci’s family wants to talk about. I loved this middle grade novel, which perfectly captures what it feels like to be a tween in a large extended family, maneuvering through middle school. Life is not fair, and change is relentless, but Merci learns that her family will always be there for her and each other. I also felt tenderly toward Lolo. My own grandfather, who lived with us and was like my second father, also suffered from Alzheimer’s. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an arc.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Edie

    I loved every minute of my time with Merci and her family a large loving multi-generational family facing the changes in Merci's beloved Lolo, the person in the family who seems to understand her the most. Merci and her brother are the scholarship kids at their private school and she often feels like an outsider, especially around an overbearing classmate. But she holds her own. There is lots of spanish naturally interspersed in this book as it is in Merci's life. Her teachers are demanding but I loved every minute of my time with Merci and her family a large loving multi-generational family facing the changes in Merci's beloved Lolo, the person in the family who seems to understand her the most. Merci and her brother are the scholarship kids at their private school and she often feels like an outsider, especially around an overbearing classmate. But she holds her own. There is lots of spanish naturally interspersed in this book as it is in Merci's life. Her teachers are demanding but well realized as are her classmates, whose roles are small but who are individuals too. There are disappointments, a soccer team she can't join because of soccer obligations but some triumphs too even if small (getting her team to add collage to their clay map).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shenwei

    Captures the essence of middle school perfectly: the troubles of fitting in among, the frustration of butting heads with your parents, puberty and the confusing aspects of people around you developing crushes and acting weird. It also tackles classism and the experience of being poor in an environment where everyone else is rich and the alienation that comes with it. I loved or loved to hate the characters and watching Merci grow was satisfying.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    Eleven-year-old Cuban American Merci Suárez lives in the Palm Beach area of Florida with her parents, and her very smart brother Roli, 17. Right next to them live their Abuela and Abuelo, called Lolo, and right next to them lives Tia Inéz, with her young twins, Axel and Tomás. The three identical houses are affectionately called Las Casitas by Merci's mother. Roli and Merci are scholarship students at a private school. Since their dad and Lolo are painters, some of their tuition is paid for in wo Eleven-year-old Cuban American Merci Suárez lives in the Palm Beach area of Florida with her parents, and her very smart brother Roli, 17. Right next to them live their Abuela and Abuelo, called Lolo, and right next to them lives Tia Inéz, with her young twins, Axel and Tomás. The three identical houses are affectionately called Las Casitas by Merci's mother. Roli and Merci are scholarship students at a private school. Since their dad and Lolo are painters, some of their tuition is paid for in work they do at the school. Because Roli is so smart, he's pretty much left alone, but sixth-grader Merci is required to do some community service in school, and so she is assigned to the Sunshine Buddies Club. It's her job to be a mentor to Michael Clark, a new kid in school who has just moved to Florida from Minnesota. Naturally, Merci's nemesis, rich mean girl Edna Santos, really likes Michael and does everything she can think of to make it difficult for Merci to be a buddy to him. That isn't hard, since Merci doesn't want to be his buddy anyway. What Merci does want is to make some money for a new bike and to tryout for the school's soccer team. Unfortunately, neither one seem to be possible for her. She has to watch the twins after school while Tia Inéz goes to work, for free, because as Merci says "When it comes to helping, the motto around here is family or bust." On top of that, her beloved Lolo has been acting oddly lately and getting very forgetful, and no one in the family will answer any of Merci's questions about it. Family policy is to always be truthful and honest with each other, with no secrets, but that is definitely not the case here and Merci is scared for Lolo, especially when she's asked by him not to mention anything that might happen when they are together - like a fall from his bike. Medina has written what I thought was a real-true-to-life coming of age story. Merci is at a transitional age, no longer a child, but not yet a teen, yet she has a lot to grapple with in this novel. She finds middle school difficult, with more intense homework and the pressure to keep up her grades as a scholarship student, and it seems that everyone around her changed over the summer vacation, except her. Now they are interested in boys, and Merci still wants to play soccer and ride her bike. But Merci also has a close-knit family who do what they can to support each other, even if money is tight and some things don't come easy. And it's a good thing, because they are going to need all the love and support a family can give in the future. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a wonderfully realistic novel about the complications of preteen life and learning to come to grips with the fact that sometimes life just isn't fair and being in middle school doesn't help. This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was an ARC received from the publisher, Candlewick Press

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Merci attends a private school by doing "community service." Her friend is jealous of her assignment since Merci is assigned to help the friend's "crush." At the same time, Merci's grandfather Lolo, to whom she is quite close, is declining rapidly due to Alzheimer's Disease, and Merci doesn't really understand what is going on due to the family's decision to keep her in the dark. It's a coming-of-age tale which may appeal to middle school readers at the moment but probably lacks an enduring qual Merci attends a private school by doing "community service." Her friend is jealous of her assignment since Merci is assigned to help the friend's "crush." At the same time, Merci's grandfather Lolo, to whom she is quite close, is declining rapidly due to Alzheimer's Disease, and Merci doesn't really understand what is going on due to the family's decision to keep her in the dark. It's a coming-of-age tale which may appeal to middle school readers at the moment but probably lacks an enduring quality. Additional editing would shorten and make the story stronger. The author includes some common Spanish words in the story which are not translated for the reader. I suspect many middle school readers, particularly in Southern and Southwestern States with many Mexican and Central American immigrants, will not need a Spanish dictionary nearby, but I anticipate it might create problems for those with little exposure to the Spanish language. The book probably works best for middle schoolers with family members suffering from dementia. I received an advance e-galley in exchange for an honest review through the publisher via NetGalley.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chessa

    I loved Merci Suarez! Meg Medina captures this transitional (middle grade) age so well - we were just playing with the boys last year, why are they suddenly at their own table and girls are...flirting with them, I guess?!? What gives! Medina tackles a lot of big issues here without overwhelming the reader - Merci’s family isn’t as well-off financially as some of the other kids at her private school, where she and her brother attend on scholarship. Her family is bigger than the typical American f I loved Merci Suarez! Meg Medina captures this transitional (middle grade) age so well - we were just playing with the boys last year, why are they suddenly at their own table and girls are...flirting with them, I guess?!? What gives! Medina tackles a lot of big issues here without overwhelming the reader - Merci’s family isn’t as well-off financially as some of the other kids at her private school, where she and her brother attend on scholarship. Her family is bigger than the typical American family and includes her Aunt and twin nephews and her grandparents; they all live together in a series of small casitas next to each other. The biggest central piece that the book revolves around is Lolo - Merci’s grandpa and number one best pal. But, Lolo has been acting differently lately - forgetting things, calling people by the wrong name, even getting angry about things that don’t seem like a big deal to Merci - and Medina handles the confusion about this situation so well. The feeling like the grown-ups are keeping Big Things from you as a kid (but I’m in middle school now!) - these feelings are so universal, but this story is definitely ground well in the particulars of Merci’s life. One of best drawn relationships of the book for me though was that between Merci and Edna, her kinda sorta frenemy. She is the head girl of Merci’s girl friend posse, and evvvvveryone follows her lead, much to Merci’s eternal confusion. The way Edna acts is so typical mean girl - we all knew some version of this girl - and yet Medina does such a good job of not making her a caricature. Merci is a great character; she just felt so real and true. I highly recommend this to all middle grade readers (and adults too)!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth Honeycutt

    Close to 4.5 stars! I enjoyed getting to know Merci, her family, and friends. I also loved the sprinkling of Spanish throughout the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meira (readingbooksinisrael)

    *I received this book as an ARC but all thoughts and opinions are my own* This was a good book. Of course, it's from my self proclaimed favorite contemporary genre: MG; Latine-kid-has-life-changes-something-happens-with-grownup-they-rely-on. My favorite thing was that racism wasn’t the setting of this book. Of course, those experiences are important and real, and should be written about but I think it’s just as important to write stories where that is not the setting-where the characters are deali *I received this book as an ARC but all thoughts and opinions are my own* This was a good book. Of course, it's from my self proclaimed favorite contemporary genre: MG; Latine-kid-has-life-changes-something-happens-with-grownup-they-rely-on. My favorite thing was that racism wasn’t the setting of this book. Of course, those experiences are important and real, and should be written about but I think it’s just as important to write stories where that is not the setting-where the characters are dealing with other things, too. It wasn’t that it was totally ignored or not mentioned but it wasn’t the center of the book. Being Latine was normal. Another thing I liked was that when the school staff noticed the bullying Merci was undergoing they actually did something about it. Exactly because that’s so unrealistic it’s important to write (and for teachers’ to read). Something that other people have mentioned is the uncomfortable feeling of being poor when everybody around you is rich and the inability at times to communicate across that line that was written well in the book. The only thing I didn't like was that it was supposed to be Merci's second year in the school but it felt like she had been in the school a much shorter time-half a year at most. Definitely go get get this book. Especially if you know kids who are in the age range for it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this middle grade fiction novel in exchange for this review. This book tells the story of sixth-grader, Merci Suarez, as she navigates the stresses at home and at school. At home, her grandfather keeps acting strangely and forgetting things, which makes it difficult for her family to take care of him and the younger children at the same time. At school, she has to deal with the changing tides of popularity, cliques, and the attention of bo I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this middle grade fiction novel in exchange for this review. This book tells the story of sixth-grader, Merci Suarez, as she navigates the stresses at home and at school. At home, her grandfather keeps acting strangely and forgetting things, which makes it difficult for her family to take care of him and the younger children at the same time. At school, she has to deal with the changing tides of popularity, cliques, and the attention of boys. The author does a terrific job of presenting all of this in an entertaining, engaging, and relatable way for middle grade kids. According to the author’s note at the end of the book, she “wanted to celebrate grandparents and families that live intergenerationally, the way we often see in Latino families. But I also wanted to write about change in families. We all change, especially as we grow up, but adults change, too. And, as we all know, not every change is a good one.” Lolo, Merci’s grandfather, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. As this disease progresses, his behavior becomes more erratic and unpredictable. The author captures the range of emotions that Merci experiences as this situation is revealed to her. I really enjoyed this book. I think that it hits some very important themes for middle grade kids – change both in terms of growing up and the way circumstances around us change both for good and bad. This is definitely going to be a popular book this year.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Adriana Martinez Figueroa

    how dare u make me cry :( --- edited review--- Merci Suarez Changes Gears has become one of my favorites of the year. I'd never read a book by Meg Medina and after finishing the book I sought to remedy it, so I already have Burn Baby Burn at the ready for later. In this middle grade, Medina explores the life of a sixth grader named Merci  as she has to live a sort-of double life between her Southern Florida elite private school, Seaward Pines Academy, and Las Casitas, home to her Latinx family. Her how dare u make me cry :( --- edited review--- Merci Suarez Changes Gears has become one of my favorites of the year. I'd never read a book by Meg Medina and after finishing the book I sought to remedy it, so I already have Burn Baby Burn at the ready for later. In this middle grade, Medina explores the life of a sixth grader named Merci  as she has to live a sort-of double life between her Southern Florida elite private school, Seaward Pines Academy, and Las Casitas, home to her Latinx family. Her household is divided into three houses, all of their members coming and going comfortably between each one. There's Merci's dad who has a painting company, her mom who's a physical therapist, her brother who's a genius senior at their school, her aunt and twin little cousins, and her paternal grandparents.  At school, Merci has to work hard to keep her grades up in order to keep her scholarship. She has to survive catty classmates and overbearing faculty members that want Merci to befriend a new kid. She doesn't know how to fit in, often gravitating toward the more popular kids, even as she knows they don't like her that much. Back home, she deals with her family's economic problems, seeing the contrast between her classmates' opulence and her own family's struggle to stay afloat. Merci doesn't know how to fit in at school, but at home she is at ease; she helps keep an eye on her little cousins, hangs out with her grandfather, helps her father's soccer team win little scrimmages. And even though Merci doesn't really understand how to fit in, she's very convinced about who she is, which is surprising to see. She's a fantastic soccer player and she loves her family (even when they can be a pain), her photography, and riding her bike. She might not now how to handle the code-switching that is being asked of her, or even how to deal with mean girls, but she's snarky, ambitious, and a hard-worker.  At its core, Medina's book is a study on the real pressures that young kids have to live with, be they familial ones, the ones created by their peers, and those that have been internalized. Most of the time they're brushed over, seen as inconsequential because they're kids and adults say ignorance is bliss. If they can keep the kid isolated from the problems that exist outside of them, they'll stay happy. But kids are intuitive, they can empathize and observe the people around them and absorb all that the universe is throwing their way. Merci's intuition shines through especially when it concerns her grandfather. When she starts noticing his forgetfulness, loss of balance, and mood swings, she keeps those things a secret. Modeling her family's behavior, she hides her feelings about her grandfather's continued decline in health. Her hurt and sense of betrayal at the news of her grandfather's diagnosis was impactful, especially when she starts demanding her family tell her what's happening. In Merci, I saw myself as a nine or ten-year-old when my own grandfather was dying. The whole thing felt completely out of my control and it made me feel very sad. I don't remember much of the details, so I don't recall if my parents ever sat me down to actually go through everything that was happening. I know I visited my grandfather a lot, and that my dad and his siblings took turns to take care of him. I was sat down the fated week that my grandfather would pass and told that he didn't have much time left. I remember my aunt calling in the morning of Thanksgiving to tell us the news. My dad was asleep and he'd woken up to not having a dad anymore. I cried a lot, because I didn't understand what was happening but I was still sad. I didn't spend that much time with him, and I don't remember ever really talking that much with him. Memory is such a fickle thing.  When Merci finally was allowed her moment to rage and just be angry over her grandfather's condition, I cried with her. I sobbed so hard into my bed because I understood her, even as a 23-year-old. It felt raw and true and unfair. I was so glad to see this, a kid allowed to feel and not internalize her hurt. All in all, Merci's story is one of bravery in the face of many events designed to keep her down. She's shut down from all sides: from her mother denying her permission to practice soccer to her grandfather's Alzheimer's kept a secret, Merci still keeps her head up while being allowed to feel overwhelmed and disappointed with the world around her.  I want to see more of Merci. I want her to have a series like Dear Dumb Diary or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I want to see her grow up and become more sure of herself, see her explore her identity and friendships and relationships. I think Merci has so much potential, and I don't mean to project myself onto her, but I wanna see her trip and find her ground again. I believe we deserve to see a young Afro-Latina spit in the eye of the systems designed to keep her down. She deserves greatness. --- An eARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Netgalley.com 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 assign E ARC from Netgalley.com 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. Strengths: It's nice to see multigenerational families living near each other-- my own neighborhood has a lot of that. The grandparents are especially fun, and the Cuban culture and food vividly portrayed. Merci's struggles with classmates, projects, and assignments, as well as her changing relationship with her brother, are all very realistic. This reminds me a bit of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, but set in Florida. Weaknesses: The cover isn't particularly great, and there is a LOT going on in the book. Tightening it up would have put more of a focus on the important issues and saved some repetition of less interesting school aspects. Ah. This author has done several YA books, including Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass; it's hard to switch gears between these age groups, even though the author has also done some picture books. What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although it always surprises me that families don't expect or discuss mental diminution in the elderly. 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Sixth grade Cuban-American Mercedes “Merci” Suárez lives in South Florida with her family in Las Casitas: three houses, side by side, where Merci lives with her brother, Roli, and their parents; her Abuela and Lolo; and her Tía Inéz and her crazy twin 5-year olds, Axel and Tomás. She and Roli also attend an exclusive private school, Seaward Pines. In order to help pay their tuition, Merci has to take part in Sunshine Buddies, a community service program that matches her with a new student from M Sixth grade Cuban-American Mercedes “Merci” Suárez lives in South Florida with her family in Las Casitas: three houses, side by side, where Merci lives with her brother, Roli, and their parents; her Abuela and Lolo; and her Tía Inéz and her crazy twin 5-year olds, Axel and Tomás. She and Roli also attend an exclusive private school, Seaward Pines. In order to help pay their tuition, Merci has to take part in Sunshine Buddies, a community service program that matches her with a new student from Minnesota, Michael Clark. Merci has a pretty full plate with Sunshine Buddies, practicing for the soccer tryouts at school, and tolerating the school's resident mean girl, Edna Santos, but things get even more complicated when her grandfather, Lolo, starts acting differently. He forgets his glasses in the refrigerator; he falls off his bike, and he tries to pick up the wrong twins at school one day. Merci finds herself with mounting family responsibilities and pushes back against the frustration of school and home life, but she and her family will work together, like they always do, to get through life's challenges. Meg Medina creates the most memorable, likable characters, from Piddy Sanchez (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) to Mía and Abuela (Mango, Abuela and Me). She creates an atmosphere that immediately feels comfortable and tactile; reading her books feels like home for me. The peppered Spanglish throughout the narrative; the mouth-watering descriptions of food, the chaotic, crazy family life all fit like a comfortable sofa that I sink into to read my books. She creates strong Latinx girls and women who run businesses and raise families, who have straight talk with their families and friends, even when those conversations are painful, and they know the strength that family provides. Every character in Merci's story feels real because these characters are real: they're the kids next to you in school, or who live down the block. Meg Medina uses humor and authentic voices to create a story about a tween girl who has insecurities, worries, and frustrations; she's also funny, smart, and creative, with a whip-smart wit. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a story about growing up and about how much it hurts to see your grandparents aging. Put this in every kid's hand, because it's that good. This one's on my Newbery 2018 short list. Merci Suárez Changes Gears has starred reviews from Kirkus, Horn Book, and Booklist. Meg Medina has an author site where you can learn more about her books and read her blog, and make sure to check out the Girls of Summer website; a project co-designed by Meg Medina and author Gigi Amateau. Girls of Summer reviews 18 titles for strong girls (picture book, middle grade and YA) every year, in early June; there are also giveaways and weekly Q & As with selected authors. The blog is active from June until Labor Day every year, but you can still check out the content (from 2011-present) no matter what time of the year!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Virginia McGee Butler

    I read Merci Saurez Changes Gears by Meg Medina with an awareness of her writing commitment to the idea of both windows and mirrors for all children to see someone like themselves in books and to strengthen understanding for readers who come from a different world. She did this beautifully in her Ezra Jack Keats Award book Tia Isa Wants a Car and in her young adult books that I have read. In this new book which makes its debut September 11, the windows and mirrors seem to shapeshift as sixth-gra I read Merci Saurez Changes Gears by Meg Medina with an awareness of her writing commitment to the idea of both windows and mirrors for all children to see someone like themselves in books and to strengthen understanding for readers who come from a different world. She did this beautifully in her Ezra Jack Keats Award book Tia Isa Wants a Car and in her young adult books that I have read. In this new book which makes its debut September 11, the windows and mirrors seem to shapeshift as sixth-grader Merci lives wrapped both in her own family traditions and in the commonalities of middle school. Differences show up early with Merci and her brother Roli as scholarship students at the private academy in Florida, doing community service to make up for their free tuition among students with families who have big houses and fancy boats and take vacations to exotic places. Spanish terms and words liberally season the text with enough context that the window reader who speaks only English can figure them out. One of my favorite scenes was Merci’s consternation at the idea of a boy/girl party with invitations for people of the same age, a party partly noted by who was left out, compared to her own birthday party noted for including both males and females from the “tiniest screaming cousin who lives in Tampa to Abuela’s sister, Concha, who is almost ninety.” As for those likenesses (mirrors), any middle schooler who has ever navigated the power play of the popular set leader will relate to many of Merci’s school challenges. Any reader who has ever had a beloved grandparent lose their mental or physical power before their eyes will grieve with Merci over her grandfather LoLo who has been her longtime pal and confidante and maybe wonder as Merci does about the time when she may have to “boss Mami and Papi as Tia is doing to Abuela.” Then there’s the common problem of children who sense something worth worrying about even while the adults in their lives are trying to shield them. The host of secondary characters are well drawn and add color to the story. I was particularly amused by Hannah’s helicopter mom who embarrassed her by wanting to know the people she was with whether it was a group party or working on a school project at the Saurez house. Meg’s mirrors and windows sparkle as though they’ve just been cleaned inside and out. Readers who are looking at themselves in the mirror or looking out the window at someone who lives life a little differently or speaks another language or two, will love Merci and her story and maybe wonder if a sequel would tell what happens next.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Hager

    Merci's life is very family-centric. Part of that is her choice (she loves her family, especially her grandparents) and part of that is the fact that she lives next door to her grandparents and two doors down from her aunt and twin cousins. (They are more than a handful and Merci has to babysit them a lot.) It's not that Merci minds babysitting them so much; it's more that it's expected of her and it also gets in the way of things she wants to do (like try out for soccer).  Another unfortunate th Merci's life is very family-centric. Part of that is her choice (she loves her family, especially her grandparents) and part of that is the fact that she lives next door to her grandparents and two doors down from her aunt and twin cousins. (They are more than a handful and Merci has to babysit them a lot.) It's not that Merci minds babysitting them so much; it's more that it's expected of her and it also gets in the way of things she wants to do (like try out for soccer).  Another unfortunate thing is that she's assigned to help a new student get adjusted to their school. And it's a boy. This wouldn't be so bad, except that most popular girl (Edna) likes him and views Merci as competition. (Merci couldn't be more clear about this not being the case.) This book shows what it's like when people are in different stages. Merci wants to play sports with the boys but a lot of the girls in her class are starting to think about maybe dating them. Also there's a lot of disparity with what different parents will let their children do. Edna's parents give her a lot of freedom and Merci had to go to so much trouble to get her parents to let her go to the movies without adult supervision but with an entire group of kids. (And it was more a worry about their safety and not how annoying this gaggle of tweens would be to everyone else in the theater. I know I'm old; I'll show myself out.) But the biggest problem is how her grandfather, Lolo, is starting to get forgetful and his usually easygoing nature sometimes switches into a Jekyll and Hyde thing. It seems like the whole family has noticed but no one's talking about it and everyone's pretending it's fine. Merci isn't sure what's going on, but definitely doesn't like it. This is such an important book. I think a lot of young readers could relate to one or multiple aspects of the story. Merci seems to feel unappreciated and overlooked sometimes, but she also feels left behind.  This is a sweet but also excellent story. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    There is something about middle school books and mean girls that just go together. And this book is no exception. But Merci is more than just another protagonist, fighting the good fight against the mean girls of the world. She is also a Cuban-American, who is living with her extended family in Florida, with her beloved grandparents, aunt, and twin cousins. I love how tight she is with her family, that she cares about them. That she wants to do right by them, despite not liking watching the twin There is something about middle school books and mean girls that just go together. And this book is no exception. But Merci is more than just another protagonist, fighting the good fight against the mean girls of the world. She is also a Cuban-American, who is living with her extended family in Florida, with her beloved grandparents, aunt, and twin cousins. I love how tight she is with her family, that she cares about them. That she wants to do right by them, despite not liking watching the twins all the time. She is proud of her grandmother who can sew anything, and often does. She loves her father's painting company, and is not ashamed of him for doing manual labor, while all her classmates' parents are doctors and lawyers and business executives. Merci is a down to earth girl, and you feel her problems and she is very real. And although there are Spanish words sprinkled throughout, they are always used in context, so you can usually figure out what she is talking about. And excellent read, and a good for inclusion, for children to see themselves in Merci. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarina

    I loved, loved, loved, loved this book. I am so honored and glad to have won the ARC in a giveaway, because I’m not sure I would have read it otherwise. Meg Medina had her finger on the pulse of the middle school experience. It’s rare to find a book I felt properly represented what middle school was essentially like, but Merci Suarez Changes Gears nailed it. There were group project struggles (I can relate), low-key rivalries, a budding social structure, and more. It felt like going back to si I loved, loved, loved, loved this book. I am so honored and glad to have won the ARC in a giveaway, because I’m not sure I would have read it otherwise. Meg Medina had her finger on the pulse of the middle school experience. It’s rare to find a book I felt properly represented what middle school was essentially like, but Merci Suarez Changes Gears nailed it. There were group project struggles (I can relate), low-key rivalries, a budding social structure, and more. It felt like going back to sixth grade. A lot of this book had to do with Merci learning to accept the changes that came her way. There were changes at her school. In particular, Merci struggled with having multiple teachers (it felt more impersonal to her than having one teacher), the lack of recess and the other girls taking interest in boys. There were changes at home, too. She struggled with the deterioration of her Lolo’s mind and the dividing line between what she could do and what she couldn’t. At one point Merci regretted being so old that she couldn’t acceptably climb into her older brother’s bed when she was scared. And, like any young adult, Merci was upset that she had more adult responsibilities and yet she was not treated as an adult would be. I loved Merci’s voice. She was funny. She was even relatable, despite the age gap between her and I. This book proved itself capable in reaching across age gaps, that’s for sure. I think any adult could read this book and remember their middle schooler selves.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Tanner

    I really enjoyed this story about Merci, who lives with her extended family in Palm Beach County, Florida (my hometown!). She's struggling with middle school (a private one that she attends on scholarship), her friends there (there's a relentless bully), boys, and her family-her big brother who is super smart and on his way to college, her young cousins (who are hilarious) and her grandfather who is suffering from Alzheimers. The characters in this one are terrific and I was really sorry when I I really enjoyed this story about Merci, who lives with her extended family in Palm Beach County, Florida (my hometown!). She's struggling with middle school (a private one that she attends on scholarship), her friends there (there's a relentless bully), boys, and her family-her big brother who is super smart and on his way to college, her young cousins (who are hilarious) and her grandfather who is suffering from Alzheimers. The characters in this one are terrific and I was really sorry when I finished it! I think the kids are going to like this one a lot.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michele Knott

    So much love for this book. I think a lot of middle grade readers will want to be friends with Merci.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Halli Gomez

    Merci Suarez Changes Gears is one of my new favorite middle grade books. It has everything I think is important for all ages: an interesting story, characters you feel deeply about, and issues that affect us all. Having lived in Miami, Florida for almost forty years, I loved being involved in Merci’s Latin family. The family life, food, and culture was woven seamlessly into the story, it’s almost like I was part of her family. This story covers many important issues while keeping the wonderful c Merci Suarez Changes Gears is one of my new favorite middle grade books. It has everything I think is important for all ages: an interesting story, characters you feel deeply about, and issues that affect us all. Having lived in Miami, Florida for almost forty years, I loved being involved in Merci’s Latin family. The family life, food, and culture was woven seamlessly into the story, it’s almost like I was part of her family. This story covers many important issues while keeping the wonderful culture. A few are issues a lot of kids face such as finding their place among their peers, dealing with bullies, and being that in-between age of wanting to be part kid and part grown up. These issues are tough for all middle schoolers, but Merci deals with them with a great deal of thought and compassion. All the while dealing with problems at home. Merci’s grandfather has Alzheimer’s Disease. As an adult, I recognized the signs immediately, but this book was written so incredibly through the eyes of Merci. As each event occurs, a fall, confusion, forgetfulness, we see it not as an adult, but as a child who doesn’t understand what these changes mean. This voice, this point of view, touched me so deeply because as adults, we forget how innocent kids are. For this view alone, I recommend this book to everyone, kids and adults.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Psyche Ready

    What a wonderful middle-grade novel! I strongly recommend this to those working with MG and YA readers, and those looking for books with characters of color and/or strong female protagonists, and anyone who loves a good kid’s book about a happy family trying to get through difficult times. Contains discussion of Alzheimer’s. I absolutely love Merci Suarez—she is as clever, courageous, stubborn and as spunky as my favorite female protags from over the years—Anne of Green Gables, Harriet the Spy, a What a wonderful middle-grade novel! I strongly recommend this to those working with MG and YA readers, and those looking for books with characters of color and/or strong female protagonists, and anyone who loves a good kid’s book about a happy family trying to get through difficult times. Contains discussion of Alzheimer’s. I absolutely love Merci Suarez—she is as clever, courageous, stubborn and as spunky as my favorite female protags from over the years—Anne of Green Gables, Harriet the Spy, and Alice. I think it would have been good for me as an eleven year old to get to know a character like Merci. She’s hilarious and inspiring, even for me, a grown-up. She’s an athlete and a shrewd businesswoman who is coping with 6th grade--that year when everything becomes about boys and dating, and everyone gets weird, and she has no clue how to deal with it. She is also navigating the differences between the lifestyle of her working-class family and those of the rich kids she goes to private school with. This mirrors my own experience as a kid, and I think Medina handles it well: Merci is proud of her family, but there are times when that gulf between us and them feels very wide, and it sucks. It was such a pleasure to spend these pages in the Suarez family, a large, multi-generational family that all live together in three houses next door to each other. They are individuals who love and support each other unconditionally, in spite of their differences. And this is an honest depiction of family: they keep secrets from each other, they yell, they get angry for the wrong reasons, and make bad decisions. What is so wonderful is that they continue to take care of each other in spite of all of that, and work to get beyond their mistakes. Minor spoilers: The main thread of the novel deals with Merci’s grandfather, and the onset of Alzheimer’s. It is a heartbreaking, honest, and beautiful portrayal of how taxing this disease is not only on the individual, but the rest of the family as well. I can tell you that I wept *a lot* while reading this—but they were primarily happy tears. It so did my heart well to read about this loving family doing their best through this painful experience. I’ve been through loss in my own family, and the sensitivity and sincerity with which Medina handles and presents this is just…well, I cried a lot. As I said, I’m a grown-up, and I enjoyed this entirely, although it’s a middle-grade novel. I very much recommend it to middle-grade and YA readers, and those looking for books featuring POC and/or strong female protagonists.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sunday Cummins

    “What a kid wants is not part of the formula, as usual, not here and not anywhere.” – Merci Medina has created a beautiful story about a young girl (6th grade) exploring the complexities of relationships, trying to establish for herself and for others who she is or who she is becoming in an ever-evolving web of family and the intricate network of friends (today, but not tomorrow; tomorrow, but not today) at school. There are so many points in this book – quotes that I think are worthy of student- “What a kid wants is not part of the formula, as usual, not here and not anywhere.” – Merci Medina has created a beautiful story about a young girl (6th grade) exploring the complexities of relationships, trying to establish for herself and for others who she is or who she is becoming in an ever-evolving web of family and the intricate network of friends (today, but not tomorrow; tomorrow, but not today) at school. There are so many points in this book – quotes that I think are worthy of student-led discussions, quotes that reveal how hard it is to make sense of friendship and family-ship and what it means to know another person like the following: 1) “When it comes to people, sometimes it’s a matter of taste, like these cookies. We like some more than others. That’s not bad. It’s just human.” – Lolo, Merci’s grandfather, p. 78 2) “Look, Merci,” he says. “I’m not trying to mess with you. It’s just that absolutely nothing about liking a person—or even disliking someone—is firmly logical all the way through.”—Roli, Merci’s brother, p. 131 (Okay…this whole page is worth savoring!!!) 3) ‘Roli might be right about chaos. It’s all so confusing. Mami loves Papi, that’s plain and boring. I love Jake Rodrigo—secretly, but still true. And I love Lolo and everybody else in our family, of course, and that’s not complicated either. But then there’s Roli and Ahana. Tia and Marco—and her crush on Simon, too. Michael and Edna in “maybe like,” which is a mess. Is that love? Oh, gross. I don’t know.’--Merci thinking, p. 143 4) ‘How does it work that the same kids who followed Edna around all the time really seemed to like seeing her in trouble? How can somebody popular have so many people glad to see her crash? "Maybe like" might be confusing, but "popular" is even weirder. Turns out, it’s not the same thing as having friends at all.’--Merci thinking, pp. 323-324 There are other thematic threads. Points where you notice how Merci and Edna’s friendship (or battles) are evolving towards a point of understanding. Merci’s grandfather has been diagnosed with dementia but her family doesn’t tell her. Merci is finding a way to fit into a less familiar context—she’s in a private school on a scholarship, but feels threatened in multiple ways. I think I would read this aloud to students and maybe post the quotes above for students to discuss OR just read aloud a chapter and book talk and then leave in the classroom library for students to grab up. Could be a GREAT book for literature clubs. Could be a mentor text for writing workshop focused on small moments. So many possibilities. Merci is a character I look forward to spending time with again in another book. Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of this book. I receive several books each month from publishers, but I only write reviews if I've read the book and think it's worthy of another reader's time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Zemaitis

    Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina Note: My professional goal for this year is to read 50+ diverse books. As I attempt to read and review these books, I will be answering the following questions for each book: Brief plot summary Merci is a sixth grader in her second year at a private school. Merci and her brother are scholarship students and do not have as much money as the other students. Not only does she have challenges at school, her grandfather is also starting to act different at home Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina Note: My professional goal for this year is to read 50+ diverse books. As I attempt to read and review these books, I will be answering the following questions for each book: Brief plot summary Merci is a sixth grader in her second year at a private school. Merci and her brother are scholarship students and do not have as much money as the other students. Not only does she have challenges at school, her grandfather is also starting to act different at home. Merci is just a kid trying to figure out her place in the world. How is the book diverse? Merci’s family is Hispanic and live in an intergenerational family. Opinion & reason for rating I gave this book five stars. Merci’s point of view is both unique but also completely relatable to any sixth grade girl. It is an easy middle grade novel to read and the story flows well. The secondary characters are very involved in the story especially Merci’s grandfather who is getting forgetful and acting differently. Family is a strong theme throughout the book. How does the book impact me as a person and as a teacher? Why does this book matter? This book impacts me as a teacher because it helps to remind me that students come to school with home on their minds. Families are made up of many different types - Merci’s family just happens to be intergenerational. Some of my students may be able to connect with Merci in this way or in other ways like her love of soccer. She is a strong female protagonist who is very likeable and the reader is rooting for her to have a good sixth grade year. This book matters because so many protagonists are white and it is refreshing to read about a Hispanic family with a strong sense of culture and family. Every year only a small percentage of books that are published have a non-white protagonist. More students need to be able to see themselves in books so they can fall more deeply in love with books. I would recommend this book to... Sixth graders who are just starting middle school and can connect to Merci’s story. I will be recommending this book to my students!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Monica Edinger

    Lovely spot-on middle grade featuring a close extended Cuban-American family, a realistic middle school, and a warm story. Merci is a delightful character to spend time with along with her friends and family.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina has earned all the starred reviews: Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Horn Book… What do you add when a book has earned all the stars and all the words you want to hear about when considering a contemporary novel for young readers? Merci Suarez Changes Gears really does have all the things you want and need—and it doesn’t read in a contrived/formulaic way. You will be moved and entertained. You’ll fall in love with Merci Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina has earned all the starred reviews: Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Horn Book… What do you add when a book has earned all the stars and all the words you want to hear about when considering a contemporary novel for young readers? Merci Suarez Changes Gears really does have all the things you want and need—and it doesn’t read in a contrived/formulaic way. You will be moved and entertained. You’ll fall in love with Merci and her family and friends. You will appreciate their struggles. Yeah, Merci Suarez Changes Gears is going to earn some [well-deserved] award stickers to go with those [well-deserved] stars. The realization of Merci’s beloved confidant and grandfather Lolo’s Alzheimer’s is significant enough on its own. But there are other hard realities Merci must confront that I appreciated seeing in a young reader’s novel. There is a mean-girl. [not unusual.] But while the novel considers Edna’s positive attributes and her own troubles, it will not allow her meanness to be explained in such a way as to excuse it. The expectations put on Merci and her brother Roli to perform flawlessly and gratefully because they are sponsored by a scholarship at a school that wouldn’t otherwise have them? The novel doesn’t excuse it. It doesn’t excuse Merci when she crosses a line, no matter how we might empathize. The story doesn’t allow anyone to have their own way. There are limits to reality and a reality steeped in community and family. I’m grateful for all the levity in the book because some of tensions/conflicts of that reality are painful. There’s Hannah and her mother. My heart hurt for Merci and Mami on that “permission slip morning.” That gut-wrenching conversation Papi has with Merci following “the baseball” scene. Trying to navigate a world where sex/gender suddenly creates difference and you’re not there yet. My eleven-year-old self strongly identifies with Merci Suarez. Not much comes across as “fair,” even if it can be managed. Which makes the reader wonder: why isn’t it fair? And is this just life? Or could something change that could make a situation more fair, or at least, even more manageable? In the meantime… Merci Suarez and her family and friends have to prove flexible and resourceful and invested in one another. The care and success of each other relies on everyone’s participation. The tension is: who is going to have to sacrifice what? And is there no independence, no means of mobility separate and apart from the things we feel bind us? For Merci and Roli both, mobility is represented by wheels (bike/car), the access to their passions (sports/research), and an education. Their own resources are only going to get them so far. [There is no boot-strap pulling narrative b.s. here.] There’s no going it alone. With family and friends like Merci’s, would you really want it any other way? Recommended for any middle-grade reader; for those who like sports. For readers of The Perez’s The First Rule of Punk, Kate DiCamillo, Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Revel’s Stonebird. https://contemplatrix.wordpress.com/2...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    Merci’s life starts to really change during sixth grade. She doesn’t fit in at her private school with the other kids, mostly because she is a scholarship student. Her brother Roli seems to be able to fit in naturally thanks to his love of science. As part of her community service for the school, Merci is a Sunshine Buddy. When she is paired with a boy to guide around school, Merci is shocked but opinionated Edna is bothered by how much time and contact Merci now has with the new cute and popula Merci’s life starts to really change during sixth grade. She doesn’t fit in at her private school with the other kids, mostly because she is a scholarship student. Her brother Roli seems to be able to fit in naturally thanks to his love of science. As part of her community service for the school, Merci is a Sunshine Buddy. When she is paired with a boy to guide around school, Merci is shocked but opinionated Edna is bothered by how much time and contact Merci now has with the new cute and popular boy. Meanwhile, Merci’s grandfather is struggling. He has started to forget things, calls people by the wrong name, can’t ride a bike anymore and get angry over small things. Other times, he is just as he has always been, immensely patient and loving. Middle school is always a confusing time, but Merci has a lot more to deal with than other kids. Can she navigate family and school without losing who she is? Medina has created an engaging middle-grade novel that grapples with several big topics. There is a theme of bullying at school, particularly because of differences in social status and culture. At the same time, readers will notice long before Merci does that she is deeply liked by many of her classmates and forms connections with ease as long as she is herself. There is her grandfather’s Alzheimer symptoms, something that Merci tries to figure out but is not told directly about until late in the novel. Her confusion and concerns turn to anger when she discovers that she is being treated like a child and not included in knowing about the diagnosis. Throughout the novel, Merci is a strong character who has a lot more going for her than she realizes. Bringing people into her life and allowing her family and school life to become one is a skillful way to show that being ashamed of one’s family is actually not the solution. Merci takes the novel to figure things out, a steady and organic evolution for her character, a character that young readers will relate to easily. A winning middle-grade novel that is part of #ownvoices, this is a must-read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Eleven-year-old Merci and her older brother Roli are scholarship students at a posh private school in Florida, and that means they must work extra community service hours and earn good grades. Roli is smart, but Merci has to work for her grades, and she is still trying to figure out friendships at her school. She's been there for a year but she still feels very out of place. And then there’s Edna, the popular girl who was friendly to Merci last year as her school buddy, but has become down right Eleven-year-old Merci and her older brother Roli are scholarship students at a posh private school in Florida, and that means they must work extra community service hours and earn good grades. Roli is smart, but Merci has to work for her grades, and she is still trying to figure out friendships at her school. She's been there for a year but she still feels very out of place. And then there’s Edna, the popular girl who was friendly to Merci last year as her school buddy, but has become down right mean this year when Merci is assigned new student Michael (Edna’s crush) as her school buddy. As if school is not crazy enough, Merci has been worrying about her grandfather Lolo. He gets confused and has been having a lot of accidents, calling people by the wrong names and acting strangely. Merci Suerez Switches Gears is what I call a “slice of life book.” The story is focused on Merci Suarez’s 6th grade year at the posh Seaward Pines Academy and her life in a big close-knit Cuban family living in Florida. The subplot of Merci’s grandfather being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease adds interest and pathos to the story. There is not a lot of action but this novel is well-written and contains characters and situations that are complex and realistic and the family’s culture plays a large role in the book. Use of Spanish words and sayings also help to build authenticity. I enjoyed this book and really liked Merci as a strong take- charge character. She doesn’t care much about her looks or boys, like some of the other girls at school. She works hard for her grades, and is a supportive family member who takes care of her twin cousins, helps her dad with his painting business and loves soccer. As much as she loves soccer, her mom won’t let her try out for the school team because the family needs her to babysit. Merci doesn’t like that but family comes first. My only negative is that with all the small real life moments, the pacing suffers. This is a very slow read. Girls would probably be most interested in reading this book, and there are no bad words or situations to deal with.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    Entering sixth grade is tricky enough on its own for Merci Suarez, yet she is dealing with other difficult issues, too. Edna Santos, rich and privileged, is snooty to Merci given the fact the Merci and her brother Roli are at their private school tuition free. Edna's jealousy is compounded when Merci is paired with popular, handsome Michael Clark as her Sunshine Buddy. However, the biggest change in the Suarez family is Lolo's rapid decline into Alzheimer Disease. At first, Merci doesn't realize Entering sixth grade is tricky enough on its own for Merci Suarez, yet she is dealing with other difficult issues, too. Edna Santos, rich and privileged, is snooty to Merci given the fact the Merci and her brother Roli are at their private school tuition free. Edna's jealousy is compounded when Merci is paired with popular, handsome Michael Clark as her Sunshine Buddy. However, the biggest change in the Suarez family is Lolo's rapid decline into Alzheimer Disease. At first, Merci doesn't realize what is happening to her grandfather as he falls off his bike, is mean to her grandmother, and forgets who she is occasionally, but it all comes to a head and Merci finds out that her family has been keeping this secret from her. Secrets are a no-no is the Suarez family, yet they all decided it was best to keep Merci in the dark. When Merci finds out about the deception, she is furious. After all, what is family if they don't confide and lean on each other in trying times. Eventually, Merci comes to terms with all of it and even finds some good friends at the school. In this coming-of-age story, Merci learns that life isn't all happiness and sunshine 24/7 and she has to navigate some rough spots along with the joy. Merci Suarez Changes Gears is a realistic portrayal of family dynamics, school bullies, and growing up...yet, it is a story that has been told many times. Some young readers will definitely see themselves in the pages and may find a way to hope. The one bright spot, for me, was near-genius Roli who couldn't manage to park the car or drive over 20 miles per hour. His storyline was a hoot. Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers, Candlewick Press, and Meg Medina for the ARC.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Merci (short for Mercedes) and her academically gifted brother live in what she calls the "Las Casitas"(Small Houses) neighborhood in a wealthy South Florida town, with a big, extended family, including a grandfather with whom she's incredibly close. They're scholarship students at an elite private school, where their dad trades his custodial services, like painting, for tuition (seems implausible, but...). Merci's poses the obvious challenges of being low-income on top of the usual struggle of Merci (short for Mercedes) and her academically gifted brother live in what she calls the "Las Casitas"(Small Houses) neighborhood in a wealthy South Florida town, with a big, extended family, including a grandfather with whom she's incredibly close. They're scholarship students at an elite private school, where their dad trades his custodial services, like painting, for tuition (seems implausible, but...). Merci's poses the obvious challenges of being low-income on top of the usual struggle of trying to fit in in middle school. Contains a sensitive portrayal and kid-friendly explanation of the Alzheimer's that afflicts him and affects their relationship. It's notable that Medina included a character named Edna Santos (presumably Latina), whose family buys the "gold package" of school photos and takes expensive vacations), to break class stereotypes. This could be a "window" or "mirror" book for a diverse readership. (It must be a coincidence that the two MG grade books that I just read back-to-back, this, with Merci dreaming of replacing her rusty old wheels with a spiffy new bike--hence the "Gears" of the title--and The Season of Styx Mallone> which features bicycles as a central motif). Glad to see Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass writing for middle-grade readers. Will recommend for grades 4+ The editor has dispensed with italics for Spanish words, as is the current practice, sometimes translating the words or letting the context fill in the meaning. (advance copy on NetGalley)

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