Merci Suárez Changes Gears
A New York Times Bestseller
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.
Praise For Merci Suárez Changes Gears…
—The New York Times Book Review
A beautiful book, an important work. —R. J. Palacio, New York Times best-selling author of Wonder
Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a tenderhearted, funny, realistic, and ultimately heartbreaking story. —R. J. Palacio, New York Times best-selling author of Wonder
Meg Medina is the author I studied, and still study, to learn how to write for children. Her ear is impeccable; the way she captures not only dialogue but also communicates adolescent feelings without being condescending nor pitching extra soft softballs. Few people get the balance of writing about and for teens right.
—Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times bestselling author
Medina’s breathtaking coming-of-age story features a strong, deeply honest protagonist whose insights will make readers laugh, as well as dynamic secondary characters that reveal glimmers of profound depth. Medina capably gets to the heart of middle school experiences in this engrossing story of a kid growing into herself. A must read.
—Booklist (starred review)
Medina writes about the joys of multigenerational home life (a staple of the Latinx community) with a touching, humorous authenticity. Merci's relationship with Lolo is heartbreakingly beautiful and will particularly strike readers who can relate to the close, chaotic, and complicated bonds of live-in grandparents. Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina’s life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it’s the ride that matters. Pura Belpré–winning author Medina cruises into readers’ hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library’s shelves.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, rev. 3/13; Burn Baby Burn, rev. 3/16) consistently and assuredly portrays Latinx girls and women who grapple with their insecurities while learning about themselves and their worlds, and middle-grade heroine Merci is a fine example. Accurate and natural use of Spanish words and sayings that fit each character’s tone builds authenticity. Medina writes with sincerity and humor to convey the experience of growing up in a close-knit family that tends to mingle too much in each other’s business while unfailingly and dedicatedly supporting and helping one another.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
In this warmly told story, Medina (Burn Baby Burn) introduces 11-year-old Merci, descendent of Cuban immigrants, who attends a Florida private school on scholarship with her whip-smart older brother...Medina keeps the tone light as Merci’s take-charge personality helps her to succeed in this coming-of-age tale about family and the perils of sixth grade.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Merci is a relatable character who has her faults but who tries to navigate middle school and stay true to herself and her family. This novel is well-written and contains characters and situations that are complex and realistic. The family’s culture plays a large role in the text. This novel would be a wonderful addition to any library.
—School Library Connection
Fans of school and family dramas will enjoy the usual negotiations and a few fresh twists (Merci ends up friends with Michael but another girl becomes his girlfriend), and they’ll ponder the message that life can be not fair and still worth it.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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.
Award-winning author Medina delivers a warm, comic tribute to the agonies and ecstasies of intergenerational families...[Merci] and her big, infuriating, lovable family are real enough that readers will wish they could live next door. Grade: A
—The Plain Dealer
Feisty Cuban-American Merci fends of sixth-grade bullies at school while worrying about her grandpa’s failing health at home. A moving coming-of-age tale.
Medina, who won the Pura Belpre Author Award for young adult novel, "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass," offers a marvelous portrait of a loving, hard-working, Hispanic family and a vividly realistic picture of the confusion of the middle school years through the unforgettable voice of Merci Suãrez.
Here’s another beautifully written exploration of a close-knit family dealing with some tough issues and a young girl on the edge of adolescence.
—The Booklist Reader
With humor, honesty and heart, author Medina tackles the tugs and pulls in Merci’s life…A terrific character, Merci is respectful and forthright, vulnerable but strong, steadfastly striving to define herself.
—San Francisco Chronicle
A book packed with truth, love, and questions. Meg Medina shows us how small, real-life moments can add up in powerful ways. Merci Suárez has my heart.
—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award-winning author of When You Reach Me
Read this book so that Merci Suárez will become a light forever shining in your heart. She will remind you of the kind person that you are deep down and of the hero you can be
—Francisco X. Stork
Medina writes with profound respect for her readers, not holding back on showing the circumstances that can make growing up an adventure of ups and downs. . . . Layered with humor, Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a heartwarming story about a smart, talented, and thoughtful girl who refuses to let all that’s changing keep her from holding on to what matters most.
—Renée Watson, author of What Momma Left Me
Meg Medina’s honest and straightforward account of adolescence in Merci Suárez Changes Gears makes her the Judy Blume for a new generation of readers.
—Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez
Meg Medina reminds us that families’ sharing troubles with their youngest members both makes them feel part of the greater whole and empowers them.
—Maria from Sesame Street and author of Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx
But merci, merci me, did I love this girl. Hardheaded but softhearted, she’s a character who really reads like so many middle-school girls. . . . Merci’s got her family issues and her friend issues and her schoolwork and her passions. . . . There are sixth-grade girls like this. Lots of ’em. I’m glad they have Merci.
—Jenesse Evertson, bbgb books, Richmond, VA
I loved this sympathetic, vibrant character who opens her heart as she begins to understand the changes going on around her. She will walk right into your heart, too.
—Carol Moyer, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
Be sure to have Kleenex handy, because you’re going to fall in love with Merci Suárez and her world and I guarantee there will be tears. I read Merci Suárez in just about one sitting and sobbed my way through the last fifty pages. If it made me feel this seen at age thirty-two, I can only imagine the impact it will have on twelve-year-olds.
—Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.
Bravo to Meg Medina! Merci’s story has depth, heart, and authenticity. Her changing relationship with her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is especially poignant.
—Margaret Orto, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.
I LOVED Merci Suárez Changes Gears! I read it in one sitting and was late for everything because I couldn’t walk away from it. . . . Meg Medina has created the kind of heroine that every girl can cheer on, embrace, and see herself in. . . . That Merci still fights for her independence while fiercely loving her familia y cultura is what gives this book such an enduring quality. This is a coming-of-age story that will stay with girls throughout their lives. When we think about the great stories we read as adolescents — like Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — I can see Merci Suaréz right next to them. I wish with all my heart that I had a book like this when I was a niña entering the sixth grade, and it will be such a joy to put it in my customers’ hands.
—Angela Maria Spring, Duende District Bookstore, Washington, D.C.
Meg Medina has scored again with Merci Suárez Changes Gears! . . . I can’t wait to get it in our store next fall!
—Clarissa Hadge, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA
Candlewick, 9780763690496, 368pp.
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. We see Merci taking charge almost right away in the book, leading the other girls in her class through the maintenance hallways at school to the gymnasium for picture day. But even when Merci takes the lead in this moment, she still seeks out Edna Santos’s approval. How did Edna end up with so much power?
2. Merci and her brother, Roli, have to do extra community service hours as part of their scholarships to Seaward Pines Academy. Aside from having to be in the Sunshine Buddies Club, what are some of the smaller, less obvious ways that Merci notices a difference between herself and some of the other students?
3. It feels to Merci like there is suddenly a huge divide between the boys and the girls in her class, one that wasn’t there when they were all still in fifth grade. Why does Merci, more than some of the other girls in her class, have a hard time adjusting to this change? How might a student who is trans or gender fluid feel about how often things are separated for boys and girls?
4. Edna Santos is always putting the phrase “no offense” in front of things she says that are not very nice. Have you ever noticed how people try to disguise unkind comments like this? Is it always necessary to share negative comments? When might be a time when sharing a criticism is important? Can you think of more thoughtful alternatives for sharing your thoughts and suggestions with another person?
5. Why does a simple thing like writing an apology to Michael Clark take Merci such a long time to do? What is she worried about?
6. Merci loves snapping photos of the people around her and editing them so that the pictures show what she sees when she looks at a person. What does this tell you about Merci and the way she observes the world?
7. When Edna invites everyone in the class to a party except for Merci, she does it right in front of Merci. What is Edna trying to achieve? Does she succeed in her goal?
8. Over and over in the novel, Merci and the members of her family say the same thing: there are no secrets. It is the family rule. Why does this make it feel even worse when Merci finally learns the truth about Lolo’s disease? Do you think her family was justified in keeping this secret and breaking their own rule? Why?
9. Meg Medina includes a lot of small clues about Lolo’s Alzheimer’s throughout the book. At what point could you tell something was happening with him? Why didn’t Merci want to believe that something serious was going on?
10. When Merci and Lolo talk about his Alzheimer’s disease, she gets angry and knocks their game of dominoes to the ground. Why do you think she reacted that way? Have you ever reacted strongly in an unexpected way?
11. Lolo and Merci are both frightened about what his disease means for their future, but Lolo says, “We are the Suárez family, Merci. We are strong enough to face this together” (page 275). How is going through something difficult with your family different from going through something difficult on your own? How do each of the members of Merci’s family help her in different ways?
12. Why are the other students so happy when Edna gets in trouble for destroying the Anubis mask? Merci can’t quite make sense of it, thinking, “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”(pages 323–324). Were you surprised by how things turned out between Merci and Edna? What do you think it will be like at school once everyone is back from winter break?
13. Merci ends the novel feeling both happy and sad, knowing how much things will continue to change for her and her family. Change is in the very title of the book. What are the many changes Merci has to deal with throughout the novel, from little changes to big ones? Do you think she herself changes from the way she was at the beginning? Did the book change the way you think about anything?