Confetti Girl, by Diana López
From Confetti Girl, by Diana López:
I should be jealous, but I'm not. I don't care about my looks. I care more about volleyball, geometry, and how toasters and lawn mowers work. But, I admit, when Jason Quintanilla called me Daddy Longlegs, I went to the girls' restroom to cry. Not because I care about what Jason thinks, even if he is the most popular boy in school, but because he called me Daddy Longlegs in front of Luís Mendoza, someone I do care about. Luís didn't laugh at the joke, but he didn't defend me either. He just stared at the sundial he wears on his wrist. I have such a big crush on him. How can I not like someone with a sundial instead of a normal watch? And he really can tell time when it's not rainy and cloudy, and that's almost always in Corpus Christie, Texas.
I love that Lina Flores is so into her crush that she thinks a wrist-sundial is the coolest thing ever. Although, to be fair: I love Lina Flores, period. Confetti Girl is about middle school and friendship and first crushes; about family and grief and growing up. It's about a girl who loves math and science because they're about answering questions rather than asking them—she's got enough questions on her plate already, thank you very much.
It's about those embarrassing moments that we cringe about for years even though most witnesses will have forgotten about them five minutes later—like getting hit in the face with a volleyball while waving to your crush, for instance—and López does a great job of conveying the humor in those moments without ever making Lina the butt of the joke.
It's about That Magical—or Horrible, depending on your experience—Time of Life when raging hormones and curiosity about love and smooches turn Annoying Classmates into Swoony Dreamboats:
We've known Carlos for years and mostly ignored him. He still wears high-tops and basketball jerseys, his style since the third grade, but over the summer, he got really cute and more interesting, even though he acts the same. Only now, since he's so cute, we notice and we listen when he talks about the NBA or tries to reenact scenes from his favorite comedy shows.
[That passage almost killed me because I remember that exact shift happening in my fifth grade class—one day, this boy was known for LITERALLY SNORTING JELLO, and the next day he was... still snorting jello, but half of my classmates thought he was soooooo cute???]
It's about how a father/daughter relationship might change after the death of a mother; about how going through the grief process in tandem with another person can be both comforting and isolating; about missing the same person, but in different ways and for different reasons.
There are some word choices here and there that are dated and/or unfortunate. Lina drops the r-word at one point, saying, "What's wrong with you? You're acting like r*s."—which gave me a jolt, and it's notable that there's no pushback on it from anyone. It's in character (I guess???), but it's so unnecessary—and since she uses it while defending a friend from a bully, she uses it while trying to do the right thing and ugh.
Speaking of said friend, the attitude in the last sentence here is... another thing that has maybe not aged so well:
Because he's usually so quiet, I forget that he gets stuck on a syllable sometimes, most of the time. Then when he gets past the hard part, the rest of his words come fast, too fast. So he's embarrassed to talk, especially around bullies. But Vanessa and I, and a few other enlightened people, don't care.
Then again, we do see people exhibiting this sort of Let's Take A Pause While I Pat Myself On The Back For Being Baseline Decent behavior pretty much every day, so.
There's a paragraph, too, in which she muses about learning about spirit animals and thinks about what her "special animal" would be, which, again, in character, but again, ugh. It's exactly the sort of moment that will give non-Native readers just enough information to perpetuate the usage of the term among those of us who should not be using it.
In terms of formatting, the Spanish words are italicized—and in this case, that feels more jarring than usual. Lina has a penchant for Dramatic Italics—which I always love, obviously—which makes it feel like all of the Spanish words are SUPER DRAMATIC. So, there you have it: Another argument in favor of moving away from unnecessarily italicizing—and Othering—words in languages other than English.
Overall, it's funny and it's smart and it's full of heart. I laughed and laughed and laughed and then I cried a little bit and then I laughed some more. Lina is a flawed, real protagonist, prone to overstepping her bounds—which she is forced to consider due to her relationship with her crush—and López gives her a lot of complicated life stuff to contend with while keeping the overall tone light. Also! Also, the major adult characters have story arcs as well, which is nice to see—we see how their behavior affects the kids, but then we also get to see THEM have realizations about how their behavior affects the kids, and it makes the whole book more layered and emotionally rich.
I read a first edition: I'm curious to see if an updated edition has changed any of the problematic bits.