Merci Suårez Plays It Cool, Vol. 3
Meg Medina, Author
Candlewick Press, Fiction, Aug. 16, 2023
Suitable for ages: 9 – 12
Themes: Middle Grade, Friendships, Family, Love, Alzheimer’s, Latino, School trip, Loss
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Eighth grade at Seaward Pines means new haircuts, nighttime football games, and a weekend-long field trip. At home, it’s more chores and keeping an eye on Lolo as his health worsens. But there will also be more independence…and opportunities to change things up.
Merci has always been fine with not being one of the popular kids, like Avery Sanders. Avery always has stories to tell about her fun weekends, and since she can afford to go to fancy soccer camps, she’ll probably be named the captain of their team. But then Avery starts talking to Merci more often, and not just as teammates on the field. Does this mean Avery wants to be her friend? Merci knows she needs to play it cool, but with kind-of friend Edna Santos always getting into her business, it’s only a matter of time until Merci has to decide where her loyalty stands.
From evolving frienships to changing family dynamics, readers with empathize with Merci as she discovers whom she can count on — and what can change in an instant — in Meg Medina’s heartfelt finale to the trilogy that began with the Newbery Medal winner Merci Suårez Changes Gears.
Why I like Merci Suårez Plays It Cool:
Meg Medina’s much anticipated finale in her Merci Suårez trilogy is a heartwarming and compelling novel that tackles big topics for Merci, who is now an eighth grade student at Seward Pines Acadcmy. Medina’s narrative is engaging and captivating. Her plot is classic middle grade school drama and friendship tension, a controlling rich girl, and the differences in culture and social status.
But 13-year-old Merci has matured throughout the series and is okay with not being in the popular gang, She is clever enough to know when they try use her or try to drive a wedge between she and her best friends. She’s also established herself as an excellent soccer player and doesn’t worry about her Papi dropping her off in his old red truck or not wearing the best soccer shoes. She is becoming more comfortable with being herself — especially with the help of her best friends Hannah, Lena and Edna. And of course Wilson. She’s still finds boy-girl relationships confusing. Is Wilson more than a friend?
I really appreciated that Medina included a mental health program at Seaward Pines. It’s a place with counselors and therapy groups for those who want to work through difficulties in their lives. Merci is assigned to be a TA (teacher’s assistant) and ends up helping in the office. It is a “safe place” for students to talk. She also learns about privacy and keeping things that she observes to herself.
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 chaotic at times, but filled with a lot of 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. Mami is a nurse. 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. Merci is often in charge of keeping an eye on her grandfather, Lolo, whose health is rapidly declining. Lolo doesn’t always recognize Merci, wanders from home and is in ill health. Her abuela is exhausted and the family hires a caregiver to help with Lolo. This is a very moving part of the story, so I won’t say anymore about Lolo.
Medina dedicates her book to “the readers who have followed Merci from the start” and wanted to know what happened next. Merci Suárez is a humorous and a satisfying read. Check out the Discussion Guide, published by Candlewick Press.
Meg Medina is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2023-2024. Her middle-grade novel Merci Suárez Changes Gears received the Newbery Medal and 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. She says “It was a bittersweet experience to write this last adventure of Merci’s. But when I think about the universe of Merci — her life at Seaward Pines and at home with the Suåez clan — I see how much she grew up and how strong she became. That kind of growth is the biggest hope I have for kids: That they know love and good times as they grow, and that the hard times they face serve the purpose of strengthening them.” The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Richmond Virginia. She was recently names Visit Meg Medina at her website.
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*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.