Speaking of the West Coast…

The Seattle Times included Mexican High in a round-up review:

“Mexican High” by Liza Monroy (Spiegel & Grau, $21.95, 334 pages): Seattle-born Liza Monroy, who now lives in New York, attended high school in Mexico City and is the daughter of a State Department Foreign Service officer — just like the protagonist of this coming-of-age novel about a high-school senior whose mother’s job makes the two of them relocate south of the border.

Initially despondent about leaving her U.S. high school and learning a whole new world, protagonist Mila sets out to negotiate a thicket of cultural differences, a new language, easy drugs and alcohol, and a class system in which children of privilege are escorted by drivers and bodyguards while the parents swan off to the next spa appointment. By turns tough and vulnerable, Mila also is searching for her Mexican father, whom her mother has never identified (he’s a socially prominent married man with whom Mom had a brief fling).

Monroy renders Mexico City in all its contradictory aspects — poverty, beauty, danger, pollution, opportunity — and makes Mila’s struggle to find herself very real. The title, which suggests south-of-the-border hallucinogens, doesn’t really suggest the complexity and honesty of this excellent debut novel.

The novel was also recently blogged as a “cool book for teens”

I loved this thoughtful article by Margo Rabb about YA vs. “adult” fiction in the Book Review this past weekend. During the writing of Mexican High, once in a while I wondered, if this story were to be published, would it be a young adult novel or adult fiction with a teenage narrator? In the end it was officially put out into the world as adult (I didn’t weigh in on the matter, as I was open to either), as things do tend toward the X-rated on occasion.

I never thought the category mattered as much. As Margo Rabb points out in her essay, there is nothing shameful about publishing a “serious literary work” book as YA. When I think back on my teenage years and all the young adult books I tore through, I realize how much they shaped my love of reading and writing. In YA vs. adult literary debate, it seems important to remember that many teens have the intellectual faculties — if not the rationality — of adults.

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