It's the beginning of another school year, and absolutely nothing is going right for sixth grader Merci Suárez. At Seaward Pines Academy, the expensive private school she and her older brother, Roli, attend on scholarship, Merci feels constantly out of place, whether it's because of the constant bullying of Edna Santos, whose life's mission seems to be to lead her possy of friends to make Merci miserable, or something as small as the massive packages of school pictures all the other families have ordered, while hers opts for the least expensive one. Plus, this year, Merci's been chosen as a Sunshine Buddy--an assigned friend to help new students adjust to Seaward Pines. It's the last thing Merci wants to do, particularly when she definitely doesn't fit in at Seaward Pines herself.
And everything at home isn't much better. Merci lives with her extended family in Las Casitas, which is usually wonderful. But now she can't try out for the soccer team because she has to watch her twin cousins after school. And her grandfather, Lolo, is starting to act strangely--forgetting their names and getting into strange arguments with his family.
Merci's life is turning upside-down. But maybe all the changes will help her change for the better, too.
Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a relatable, fast-paced middle-grade novel. The characters and situations in this book are particularly realistic to me, and felt modern and universally identifiable for middle schoolers. I particularly enjoyed reading about Merci's family--they all interact and bounce off one another naturally, and both their characters and their relationships felt incredibly realistic. I recommend Merci Suárez Changes Gears to readers ages ten and up who enjoy realistic fiction novels.