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This book is the gem that I needed. There are a few books that I find that I gently tug at my heart and punch me in the face at the same time. In simple terms: I adored it.
If a book can make me cry and laugh, then it’s worth something for me to take an hour of my day to write a whole review about.
Thank you, Lilliam Rivera, for blessing me this story.
Okay, I don’t remember how I found this book. I think it was one of the stories recommended when I wanted to buy The Hate U Give. I think I also wanted to find a story in a Spanish speaking community because I was taking Spanish last semester—the Fall. A few days later, I bought the book from Amazon and promised to read it…one day, which was a few weeks ago.
So let’s dive into the review.
If you’re looking for a story that touches on social issues and the blending of two different cultures, then this is the story for you. I personally am huge on social issues, but I’m not a social activist or anything. However, the merging of two cultures interests me. (I took anthology my freshman year of uni and there is a word to describe this). I also liked the cover. This is one of the few covers I’ve seen with a girl with textured or curly hair.
Also, The Spanish words weren’t italicized. How amazing is that? My semester of an intense Spanish class has finally paid off. I found this so heart-warming. I understood it perfectly, so I don’t want to hear that it took you literally a second to Google the words. It’s not a problem; it’s perfect.
The Education of Margot Sanchez is what is needed in the Young Adult genre. This story doesn’t hammer on the social issues that it addresses but shows how it affects communities. There are family dynamics, generational gaps, assimilation, classism, and toxic friendship. There was no preachy-ness of these issues. Now, there is one thing that I do not like is preachy-ness. It’s a major turn off.
TEOMS gives a look into the world of a teenage girl switching in and out of two worlds, both cultural and economically. Margot attends Somerset, an elite private school, where she is the only Latina. In order to fit in, Margot has to manipulate her looks and personality. In doing so, Margot ends up stealing her father’s credit card to purchase clothes. She gets caught and landing her summer working at the first supermarket her father opened located in the Bronx.
The Best of Both Worlds
We are shown the two worlds of Margot Sanchez: the girl from Somerset Prep and the girl from the Bronx. Margot juggles between these two worlds throughout the story. She learns from her experiences while working in the Bronx. Her views are different from most people. She is also seen as a preppy, clueless daddy’s girl from a few of the cashiers. Meanwhile, at Somerset, she’s the follower of two of the popular girls and is a shadow.
This aspect of the story is my favorite. I relate to it so much. Growing up I had to manage two sides of me and as adolescency came, so did the abrupt shift and overthinking of upholding an image from two different groups. I grew up believing that I was not black enough because I didn’t speak a certain way, had a white stepfather, and behaved just a different way from everyone else. I never fit in with the other black kids. My favorite genre was pop and punk-pop. Growing up, I had a One Direction sweatshirt and wore it proudly like a crown. I also wasn’t white enough either. I still was a light-skinned black girl at the end of the day.
There was never a blend. I had my white friends and my black friends. Two entirely different worlds. It was hard to juggle. Still to this day at 20, I cope with it. Now in college, I have to behave differently, but now, I try to be myself no matter who is around.
I noticed that Margot also says it that it was difficult for her to switch from the two worlds. Her friends weren’t going to approve of her friends from the Bronx. She had to look the part and silence herself. She would straighten her naturally curly hair whenever she goes to Somerset. It’s simply assimilation. There is a section, where Margot explains why she does it. It also is a part of high school as well. Fitting in is something that everyone wants, but for most POC it’s even harder to fit because we don’t look like our white counterparts.
Margot attends an affluent private school. She’s the only Latina girl. Her best friends are some of the most popular girls in school, so she has to minimize herself. She says, “I revert to what I’m meant to do whenever I’m around Camille—be her praising puppy.”
Speaking of friends, I love the friendship dynamic. Margot’s friends from Somerset, Serena and Camille, are the typical mean girls but with baggage. Camille is clearly the Regina George out of the two, while Serena is simply her Gretchen Weiners. Add in the cringe commentary that most obvious white friends do and Camille’s faux accent around Margot. It’s so realistic and it’s brings so many memories.
Also being the POC friend feels like a chore, especially for Margot. It’s evident throughout the book. Sure, she likes being their friend but she always feels like a second thought. “Camille approves because this is also what I’m good for—entertainment.”
I like this culture shift in her friends. On the other end of the spectrum, Margot has a friend from her childhood named Elizabeth. She’s an artist and always there for Margot even when Margot isn’t. Elizabeth and Margot lost connection when she started attending Somerset. It’s typical for teens to do that. I lost connection with some of my friends when I started attending a different school. It’s natural, however, Elizabeth and Margot’s friendship was more solid and didn’t falter into a pure acquaintance and awkward smiles when running into each other every once in a blue moon. They grew up together and hung out almost every day.
The distance grows and shrinks throughout the story. Elizabeth is the only person that Margot can trust when she finds out a huge secret about her father. She said that she couldn’t trust Serena and Camille with it because “Elizabeth won’t judge.” Then Elizabeth says a few pages down after Margot snaps at her for not reacting enough that Margot uses her and is ashamed of her around her Somerset friends.
Margot’s two worlds can not cross. It’s the same for many of us. We realize that the worlds contrast too much that it’s impossible to merge them.
This book is funny. Hands down. I was giggling and snorting at some parts. I love Margot’s narration. She reminds me of a character I’m writing right now for one of WIPs. She is literally the character I needed. Margot isn’t a perfect girl; she is portrayed as one, which I greatly appreciate. I’m tired of reading about the same MC. Margot was the gem that was hidden behind all the rocks.
Lately, I realized that a lot of Young Adult MC narratives are so bland and meets “I’m-insecure-and-I’m-not-like-other-girls” criteria. When I was 15-17, I had a borderline superior complex about being different and having the best taste in music and not being like everyone else.
You know what I mean.
Margot’s narration is how most characters should be. It’s unique and memorable. This is how a normal teenage girl thinks. This brought me back to my high school days, even though that was only a year and a half ago.
Romance Isn’t the Focal Point
I appreciate Young Adult stories that juggle more than the MC and their love interest. There are so many family dymaics and friendship that can be explored. I personally find those more interesting than romance.
However, Margot does have two love interest, both very different from the other.
We have Nick, a guy from Somerset that Margot has her eyes on for a while. The only drive for her to work at her father’s supermarket the whole summer is so she can show how much she matured and learned, just so she could go to Nick’s party in the Hamptons. Nick is rich and cute. I didn’t pick up on any other traits than that. Sorry.
Then, we have Moises, who is from the Bronx with tons of baggage. He is an activist and active in his community. Margot meets him thanks to his little table outside of the supermarket on one of her first days. Moises brings out a less uptight Margot throughout the book. She’s most laid back and maybe even herself.
Margot didn’t stop her world—well, kind of at one point— for either of them. In the end, she chooses the right path for herself. Her mission changes by the end of the story to focus on herself.
Margot’s relationship with her family is a huge moving point in the story. I’d have to say that it is the main focus. Aside from her juggling life from the Bronx and Somerset, her family plays a huge part of her identity. Margot’s parents are Puerto Rican. Her mother is an Afro-Latina, who was the last of her sisters to marry, and was taunted when she was younger because of her darker skin. Margot’s father moved away from the island to open up a business. Margo’s older brother, Junior, is an ex-college athlete who lost his scholarship and now helps out around the Sanchez’s Supermarket.
The Sanchez’s are the modern typical family. The pressure that Margot holds is so relatable because she’s the youngest and is expected to success. Sure, her father calls her “Princessa” but she is punished for her actions. By the end of the story, it breaks me how much this family goes through. I fell in love with them. Then they broke my heart.
The relationships between Margot and her parents contrast deeply. Her mother is often unemotionally, ignoring her own problems, and tries to protect his perfect image that they hold in the neighborhood. By the end, she grows as a character.
There is not much that irked me so much while reading that I remembered two weeks later. I wished there was more about the characters from Margot’s school, Somerset. I wanted more from that side of Margot’s world. We only get the party scene and the conversations with Camille and Serena. This is probably the Pick-A-Poppy tween in me wanting to know the social hierarchy there and who’s dating who. Yeah, all of that.
I recommend this story to anyone who grew up code-switching and assimilating between two different worlds. It’s a great story with enough drama and heart-warming moments.