Merci Suarez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina

Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

Meg Medina, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 6, 2021

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Themes:  Middle School, Friendship, Family, Love, Alzheimer’s, Latino, Dance

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she’s got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be as smart as her brother, Roli. She’s been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she’s tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball.

One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can’t dance—not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else. Dancing makes her almost as queasy as love does, especially now that Tía Inés, her merengue-teaching aunt, has a new man in her life. Unfortunately, Merci can’t seem to avoid love or dance for very long. She used to talk about everything with her grandfather, Lolo, but with his Alzheimer’s getting worse each day, whom can she trust to help her make sense of all the new things happening in her life? The Suárez family is back in a touching, funny story about growing up and discovering love’s many forms, including how we learn to love and believe in ourselves.

Why I like this book:

Meg Medina’s much anticipated sequel is a heartwarming and compelling novel that tackles big topics for Merci Suárez, who is now a seventh grade student at Seward Pines Academy. Medina’s narrative is engaging and immersive.  Her plot is classic middle grade tension and  — losing a BFF to a more popular crowd; a mean, rich-girl bully; racism; and the differences in culture and social status.  

Merci’s adventures in school paint a clear picture of a curious and resilient 12-year-old trying to make sense of who she is. She’s smart, has a good business head and is a talented photographer. She worries about her looks, is conscious about her changing body and dreads PE shower rooms. She can’t dance and doesn’t want to go to the big school dance.  She finds boy-girl relationships confusing. Is it scary or nice? She wants to know about holding a boy’s hand, kissing for the first time, dating, and breaking up. Medina also includes a very diverse cast of memorable characters: Edna who’s from the Dominican Republic, and Wilson who’s Louisiana Creole and Cajun, is differently-abled and wears a short ankle brace to straighten his leg when he walks. Merci’s friendship with Wilson, a math whiz, may mean a little more to her.

This richly textured Latino story is peppered with Spanish expressions from her Cuban-American family. Medina uses humor in this true-to-life story that is topsy-turvy, yet filled with heart. The Suárez family is a large multigenerational family that live in a group of three homes where all family members come and go, regardless of who lives where. Papi runs a painting business. The Suárez family is a close-knit family that work, cook and eat together, share childcare responsibilities, and support each other, even if money is tight. There is a lot of chaos at all times. Merci is often in charge of keeping an eye on her grandfather (Lolo), whose Alzheimer’s is rapidly progressing and babysitting her aunt’s active twin boys. And they all answer the call to help Tía Inez, when she decides to open a school of Latin dance.

Medina dedicates her book to “Merci fans who wanted to know what happened next.”  And fans will cheer for Merci, enjoy watching her grow and hope that Medina continues her story. Merci Suárez is a humorous and satisfying read.  

Check out the Teacher’s Guide, published by Candlewick Press.

Meg Medina is the author of the Newbery Medal-winning book, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, which was also a 2018 Kirkus Prize finalist.  Her YA novels Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, for which she won a 2014 Pura Belpre Author Award; Burn Baby Burn, which was long-listed for the National Book Award; and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Richmond Virginia. Visit Meg Medina at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

26 thoughts on “Merci Suarez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina

    • That’s interesting. I do love the cover on the first better than the second. But, Merci is older. Medina is spot on with MG angst. I loved how Merci doesn’t want to get involved with boys — friendship is enough — but she is still curious about boy-girl relationships and what it feels like to hold a boy’s hand, kiss a boy, (do teeth bang?) and breaking up. Perfect for this age group.

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    • I really enjoy Medina’s storytelling. I learn so much about the Latino culture, the extended family relationships and so on. But, this story really focuses on Merci’s curiosity about boys.

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  1. I have the first book, but haven’t read it yet. I see there is a new cover for the first book that looks like it matches this one- and it looks more of middle school book than the first cover did. Sounds like a good series. I will have to get reading. 🙂

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  2. This sounds like a great read with a lot of different layers. I think that middle schoolers will really relate to her not wanting to dance. Such a great title! My grandma’s Alzheimers started when I was in middle school, so I really like how that was included her.
    Thanks for bringing another thoughtful read to our attention!

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    • There are a lot of kids who feel awkward about dancing. Medina really speaks to MG readers and what concerns them. Believe you will enjoy her sequel — an relate a bit. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I’m one who wants to know what happens next as I thoroughly enjoyed the first Merci Suarez book. The family is diverse and there’s never a dull moment. Ms. Median really captures the heart of a middle grade kid. Thanks for your enticing review on today’s MMGM.

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  4. I still haven’t read the first book in this series, which is pretty embarrassing by this point! This one sounds like an excellent sequel, though I do wonder why the cover looks so different than that of the first. Thanks for the great review!

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    • I really love the hardback cover of her first book. The paperback isn’t quite as appealing. But, it does kind of match the sequel. This series is packed with family, culture, MG angst and lots of humor! So well written.

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  5. What a lovely and well-written review! I haven’t read the first book either, but I’m going to hunt it down. Your review of this one shows me they are both right up my alley. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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