Fifteen-year-old Macy Cashmere is emotionally disturbed, at least according to her school, teachers, and family. But her life is heartbreakingly difficult—her father is in prison, her brother was taken away by Child Protective Services, and her mother is involving herself with a string of abusive men who make occasional passes at Macy. She has just two friends: honor student Alma, who hopes that school will save her, and George, who wears a helmet due to an injury sustained after the brutal murder of his sister. Macy’s story is told as a series of vignettes, each framed by a word in Macy’s “dictionary” (“Answer. Noun. Example: ‘Ahnsuh me, bitch!’ ”) with a tenuous narrative thread. Debut author Ramos shows Macy navigating the difficulties of school and home while plagued by deaths, threats to her safety, and a constant, nagging hunger. Ramos makes effective use of vernacular to channel Macy’s anger, anguish, and sharp-edged perspective in a disturbing but empathetic portrait of life as a child in poverty. Ages 14–up. Agent: Emily Keyes, Fuse Literary. (Feb.)
Gr 9 Up—Fifteen-year-old Puerto Rican Macy Cashmere keeps a personal journal in dictionary format which gives readers insight into the mind of a teen disappointed by her urban environment and most of the adults in her life. Labeled "disturbed" by the school system, she lives in constant hunger, sleeping in the bathtub to avoid uncomfortable events in the rest of her apartment. She clings to her relationship with her "bestie," a beautiful, intelligent young Latina going through her own family traumas, together with their friend George, who, despite his own challenges, serves as a stabilizing force. Teacher Mrs. Black is the singular adult who seems to provide deep acceptance, caring, and timely words of encouragement. Intra-textual references between dictionary entries provide clues about past and future events until they meet in real time at the plot's climax. This complex story of love and loss can lead to insightful discussions about the problematic label of "disturbed." The book concludes with some hope but not a complete resolution which makes it realistic in a lingering way. While this text includes strong language, the use of inventive spelling to defy school grammar, and content suitable for older readers, it may provide students with similar life experiences from an identifiable protagonist and serve as a catalyst for critical educator-facilitated discussions. VERDICT Purchase where Isabel Quintero's Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is popular.—Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL
Officially classified as "disturbed," Macy vents her rage, frustrations, and fears in a dictionary-style journal. According to her high school, 15-year-old Macy (who's of Puerto Rican descent) is ADHD, compulsive, learning disabled, and emotionally disturbed. Thanks to her caring English teacher, Miss Black, Macy keeps a detailed, secret "dictionary" in which she shares words and definitions relating to her life, from "always/never" to "zombie." Macy's family life is unimaginably difficult: she goes hungry outside of school, Daddy's in prison, Mami sleeps with abusive men (who creepily come on to Macy as well), and baby brother Zane was recently "kidnapped by CPS" to a foster home. Macy is also aggressive, angry, and intimidating. Despite her circumstances, Macy has two unconditional friends: her patient bestie, Alma, who hopes to earn a college scholarship, and George, a loyal, nearly mute trauma survivor who always wears a helmet. Macy's grittily honest accounts can be hard to process and the stylized language, off-putting (as when she substitutes "f" for "th" in "breaf," "Birfday," "baftub"), but her voice is inimitably unique in contemporary teen literature. The heartbreaking events are almost unbearable, but the author depicts them with authenticity and empathy—even when Macy wields a machete to fix a problem. Ramos' relevant and thought-provoking debut is a powerful addition to any collection. (Fiction. 14-17)
5Q 4P S "Macy Cashmere may not be in the AP classes like her best friend Alma and the school may label her 'disturbed,' but that does not mean she has nothing to say. Her unusual dictionary reveals a strong-willed, big-hearted teen with plenty on her plate. Her dad is in prison and her mom’s strategy for managing the household mostly consists of finding 'guests' to provide financial supportsupport Macy refuses to accept in any way. Her brother is in foster care, and though the specific reason for that is not revealed until later in the book, it comes as no surprise. Finally, there is Alma, who seems be distancing herself from Macy, though Macy has no idea why.
Ramos's stunning, gritty debut is equal parts hilarity, heartbreak, and hope. Macy's distinctive and authentic voice engages readers immediately. The unusual format of individual entries in (mostly) alphabetical order works well to reveal Macy's story and character a little at a time. Her poignant entry, 'Pink,' about the somewhat stereotypical English teacher who sees through Macy's mask, is an elegant tribute to passionate teachers everywhere. Although tragedy fills the pages as Macy's world slowly spirals out of control, this is ultimately a triumphant narrative of one teen taking charge her life and determining her own story."starred, VOYA