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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1101

Author: Meg Medina (b. 1963)

First published: 2013

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Coming-of-age; Realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Queens, New York

Principal characters

Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez, a fifteen-year-old who has recently transferred to a new high school

Yaquelin "Yaqui" Delgado , her classmate and...

(The entire section contains 1101 words.)

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Author: Meg Medina (b. 1963)

First published: 2013

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Coming-of-age; Realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Queens, New York

Principal characters

Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez, a fifteen-year-old who has recently transferred to a new high school

Yaquelin "Yaqui" Delgado, her classmate and a bully

Clara, Piddy's mother

Lila Flores, Clara's best friend and an aunt-like figure to Piddy

Joey Halper, a teenager who lives in Piddy's old apartment building

Darlene Jackson, a friend from Piddy's new high school

Rob Allen, Piddy's classmate

The Story

At the start of Meg Medina's 2013 novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, fifteen-year-old Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez is five weeks into her sophomore year at her new school, Daniel Jones High School in Queens, New York. Piddy had to switch schools after she moved with her mother, Clara, to a new area of Queens. One day, a girl approaches Piddy and makes a life-changing announcement: "Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass." Although Piddy initially has no idea who Yaqui is, she soon learns that the other girl is the leader of the school's Latina clique, with which Piddy does not fit in despite her own Latina background. Yaqui thinks that Piddy is stuck up and also believes the new girl is trying to steal her boyfriend.Copyright © 2013 by Meg Medina. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Yaqui soon launches the first attack in her campaign against Piddy, drenching her in chocolate milk during lunch period one day. The conflict escalates from there, with Yaqui and her friends harassing Piddy in the hallway and stealing her treasured elephant necklace. Intending to confront Yaqui, Piddy convinces her new friend Darlene, who works as an aide in the school guidance office, to give her Yaqui's schedule in exchange for the answers to a homework assignment. However, Piddy ultimately does not confront Yaqui and instead leaves school for the day, beginning a pattern of truancy and missed schoolwork that has a detrimental effect on her once-excellent academic record.

In addition to being bullied by Yaqui and her friends, Piddy frequently argues with her mother, who does not know about the trouble at school and is worried by Piddy's changing attitude and behavior. Piddy is thrown further off balance when she learns that her absentee father had been married to another woman at the time that Clara became pregnant with her, a revelation sharply at odds with Clara's emphasis on moral behavior. After a fight with her mother, Piddy goes to her old apartment building and encounters Joey Halper, a teenager who lives in the building. Piddy and Joey end up kissing.

At school, Piddy's fortunes seem to turn around when Yaqui is caught stealing and is suspended. However, several of Yaqui's friends later wait outside the hair salon where Piddy works on the weekends and tell her that Yaqui wants to fight. Piddy refuses, and she later makes an attempt to blend in with Yaqui and her friends by changing physical features such as her eyebrows in order to look more like them. This attempt proves unsuccessful, and Yaqui and her friends follow Piddy home and attack her. After the attack, Piddy goes to her mother's best friend, Lila, for help but refuses to tell her mother what really happened. Although Piddy skips school for a week to recover from her injuries, the attack becomes public knowledge when Yaqui's friends post a recording of the attack online.

After Piddy's mother learns that Piddy has been skipping school, mother and daughter fight, and Piddy reveals that she knows that her father had been married. Clara later explains that Piddy's father had lied to her about his relationship status. Meanwhile, Joey leaves New York for Philadelphia after his father is arrested for beating his mother. He encourages Piddy to come with him, but she decides to stay behind. When she returns to school, she learns that a fellow student, whom she suspects was classmate Rob Allen, had made an anonymous report to school officials that Piddy was being bullied. Although initially reluctant to do so, Piddy eventually identifies Yaqui as the bully and proves her allegations by showing the officials the video of the attack. She goes on to tell her mother the truth about what she had been going through. At the end of the novel, Piddy accepts a safety transfer back to her old school. She is accepted into a magnet school for the following year, where she plans to study science in the hope of one day becoming a veterinarian.

Critical Evaluation

With Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, Meg Medina presents a powerful depiction of the harmful effects of bullying on teens. While Yaqui's harassment of Piddy begins in school, the bullying ultimately follows her home—both literally, in the case of the attack that occurs right outside of Piddy's building, and figuratively, in the fear that remains with her even when the bullies are nowhere in sight. As the end of the novel makes clear, the psychological and emotional manifestations of Piddy's trauma continue to linger even after she transfers back to her old school, making her afraid to enter school bathrooms alone or be otherwise vulnerable. Medina aptly demonstrates how bullying can affect not only someone's mental state, but also ability to function on a day-to-day basis, their relationships with friends and family, and even their own identity and sense of self.

Indeed, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass provides a compelling look at the formation of personal identity and the ways in which teenagers may attempt to transform in order to fit in or to avoid standing out. For Piddy, attempts to blend in physically with her bullies are fruitless since such physical signifiers of identity have little to do with the actual conflict at hand, which is fueled by complicated issues of ethnicity, class, gender, and family background. Piddy ultimately stays true to herself despite her experiences and learns over the course of the novel who she truly wants to be.

Further Reading

  • Stevenson, Deborah. Review of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, vol. 66, no. 7, 2013, pp. 345–46, doi:10.1353/bcc.2013.0182. Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.
  • Review of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. Kirkus Reviews, vol. 81, no. 2, 15 Jan. 2013, p. 107. Literary Reference Center, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=84935035&site=lrc-live. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
  • Review of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. Publishers Weekly, 25 Mar. 2013, www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7636-5859-5. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
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