By Anya Shukla
I’ve seen this book described as “‘Pretty in Pink’ meets the Bronx.” I don’t really see it. (One party scene that mimics Andie and Blane’s first date aside.) This book doesn’t start like “Pretty in Pink,” it doesn’t end like “Pretty in Pink,” and there is NO pink prom dress makeover. False advertising :(
Also, I felt a lot of secondhand embarrassment for Margot... which led me to read some chapters (including the aforementioned party scene) backwards to make sure she ended up okay. This decision might have impacted my understanding of the book.
Review: After Margot Sanchez gets busted for stealing $600 from her father, she’s forced to work at the family grocery store for the entire summer in Lilliam Rivera’s “The Education of Margot Sanchez.” Instead of hanging out at the Hamptons, she’s restocking shelves, making sandwiches at the deli, and… chatting with the cute boy, Moises, who’s protesting gentrification across the street.
During her summer, Margot reckons with family troubles, strange goings-on around the grocery store, and her dreams of popularity. While its themes of fitting in make “The Education of Margot Sanchez” relatable to its YA audience, the snobbish titular character prevents readers from fully engaging with this novel. My Rating: 2.25/5.
What I Loved: I think there are some good messages here for the YA crowd about knowing yourself and loving where you come from. At the start of “The Education of Margot Sanchez,” Margot hides her true identity, wearing preppy clothes to fit in and telling her friends that her family owns a chain of grocery stores to appear more high-class. Her only dream is to attend the big Hamptons end-of-summer bash and win the attention of her crush. By the book’s end, however, she grows closer to her community and co-workers in the grocery store, reconnects with an old friend, and tells her Somerset schoolmates the truth about her origins.
Rivera also showcases the pressure that comes from Margot (in her own words) being the “great brown hope for my family” (pg. 16). She feels obligated to do well at Somerset by making connections with the right people, going on to attend an Ivy League school, and making money to support her loved ones. I can see how these themes could resonate with anyone who doesn’t fit the “preppy, private school mold” or comes to an old money institution from a lower-class background.
What I Didn’t Love: Margot. She whines about doing hard labor, looks down at everyone who’s “low-status,” and basically tells a woman with an unintended pregnancy that she’s stupid for having a baby (she says sorry afterwards, but still). Even her love interest isn’t safe: “No matter how good-looking or nice Moises is, he’s not elevated enough… a future doctor or lawyer can’t have lunch with someone who collects signatures or hosts jam sessions” (pg. 102). You are in your freshman year of high school! A lunch is not marriage! Calm down, please!
I think part of the problem is that there’s a lot of telling instead of showing. Rivera tells us about Margot’s time at Somerset, the actions she takes to get into the popular group, the way her summer gets derailed. I felt distanced from the main character, which prevented me from empathizing with her struggles and understanding her rationales.
I will say that Margot’s reality is very different from my own. While her actions seem improbable to me, I can’t rule out the fact that her character may hit home for other readers.
A Quote I Would Like On Goodreads: “It's the running theme in my life. My family tries to shelter me from the ugliness of the world” (pg. 248).
Up next: “Palace Walk” by Naguib Mahfouz.