For basically all of my reading life, I have been looking for books that have a little Latino flare. Why? The answer is obvious, I’m Latina. There aren’t many and if there are they are usually not fantasy which is my genre! There have been some recent fantasies like Labyrinth Lost (which I still have to get to) and The Girl of Fire and Thorns which has a little Spanish fire.
Then I stumbled upon this book. The Education by Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera. We all know, contemporary is not always my favourite thing. I only like certain types of contemporaries and even then I am very, very picky. It said that this book was “Pretty in Pink” meets the Bronx, I haven’t seen that movie or ever been to the Bronx so I was a little hesitant if I would like it or not.
Luckily I did.
The Education by Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.
THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:
Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.
With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…
Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.
I would first like to say that this was like reading a telenovela. If you don’t know what that is, it is basically a Spanish soap opera. You have the rich people, the poor people, the drugs, the hot dudes, the family dynamic and of course the DRAMA! Telenovelas can either be a hit or miss for me. Fortunately, this novel was a major hit for me!
What I Liked:
Margot: Margot…Margot…Margot. I had a love/hate relationship with her. There were times, especially in the beginning of the novel where I couldn’t stand her. She was petty. P.E.T.T.Y. She made some really dumb decisions and her naïveté was at sky high levels. Yet, I understood her. I understood that her need to fit in with her clique from school, her desperation to appear cool and not weird. I understood the consequences of growing up sheltered, but still. There are so many times I wanted to shake her and tell her to actually think! There were other times when I really related to her. Especially when it came to her family. I related to her curly hair dilemma. (Although she had the energy to blow it out, I never do) I related to the push she got from her parents to go to a predominantly “white school” in order to receive the best education and to avoid any career paths that were considered “useless”. We were both pushed to become doctors. So yes, I did find Margot more enjoyable as the book progressed and thankfully her decision making skills get better.
Moises: He’s not very present in the novel, but still a very important character to influence Margot. Despite having a shady and troubled past Moises was really down to earth. He didn’t let anyone’s judgement and negativity about him stop him from doing what he believed was right. He tried his best to give Margot a different perspective on life and I really appreciated him for that. He was honest, open and caring.
Oscar: Okay, so he was in the novel for literally five seconds but he is the real MVP and deserves all the hugs!
Setting: The Bronx setting was interesting. You know the rough town where all the rough people live and do even rougher things. Well this book makes you see that behind the town’s reputation there are honest people living there too. There are families just trying to make a living and be happy. I really liked how this book showed both sides to the town. The bad and good. I can really relate to this because I live in an area similar to the Bronx. It doesn’t have a great reputation, but it is full of amazing people.
Latin family dynamic: It is such a rich and beautiful culture to grow up in and I really enjoyed reading about her family’s quirks. Some of the lessons and things that Margot was taught and experiences she went through growing up in a Latino family were very similar to my own life. Not every lesson is right or supportive of gender equality but it gives insight into some of the issues of growing up in that culture. I will be honest, it is very, very patriarchal. Very male orientated, but I feel like as times change, this culture changes too. I think with books such as these that explore these issues will help people see beyond these traditional ways.
Drama: I lived for it. The final chapters had me insane. For me to love a contemporary it needs good and juicy drama. It is a NEED. This book had it. The gif below holds all three of the expressions that crossed my face when the most intense plot twist happened!
Family flaws: Alongside the Latin family dynamic, there was just the theme of family as a whole. The Sanchez family is not perfect, like most families. They have flaws and fight, but in the end they are a family and throughout this novel they learn that in order to be a whole family they must be open to each other and not fear those you love.
Spanish Dialogue: Once again no glossary needed for me! Not a lot of the words or phrases were translated, but you understand the sayings in the context of the story. It gave an authentic feel to the environment and the type of people that surrounded Margot. There were even some bad words…but like who really remembers those!
Lessons in learning to accept yourself: We are all odd human beings with quirks and kinks. We can’t be friends with everyone, we make mistakes (some more than others….Margot!) But as the cheesy line goes, you learn from your mistakes. You have to learn to embrace your imperfections but challenge yourself to improve. You have to embrace your oddities and let no one keep you from changing your ways to fit into something else.
What I Disliked
Slow beginning: I was so annoyed of Margot and her complaints for the first five chapters. It was endless complaints about not being in the Hamptons and working in a dingy grocery shop, we get it your social life is over! Then things started to pick up as we dived deeper into the novel. But honestly those first chapters were tough to get through.
Lack of Exploration of Culture: I was hoping for more Puerto Rican culture to be explored apart from the occasional food mention, word or phrase. I really liked the use of the famous poet Julia de Burgos, but I wanted more. I wanted to know about their traditions, stories, home…but perhaps this was not the book for it.
NOT AN ENDING: Excuse me there was so much more needed to end this novel. I need closure. I need an epilogue, it would have made this perfect! This ending was too abrupt, all the good drama happened in the final chapters and not all of it was resolved as I hoped it would have been.
This does not take away from the novel, but I would like to say a big F U to Mr. Sanchez! aka Papi Pendejo. You suck.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was a great contemporary read in my opinion. It had enough drama, twists and humour. It was funny and I suffered a lot of second-hand embarrassment which I always think is great, though tough to get through! I would love to read more books by Lilliam Rivera, hopefully she has something new in the works!
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Recommend: For those looking for a quick, summer-y, diverse read!
Has anyone else read this? What did you think? In general, how do you deal with second hand embarrassment when you are reading?