Merci Suárez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina

Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

In this sequel to Merci Suárez Changes Gears, a 2019 Newbery Medal-winning middle school novel, author Meg Medina narrates the trials, joys, and victories of Merci—short for Mercedes—as she navigates the increasingly complex world of the seventh grade. 

The child of Cuban American immigrants, Merci is aware that her family’s culture, social status, and financial standing set her apart from many of her peers at Seaward Pines Academy in Florida, where she lives. After all, she’s only able to attend the school because she’s on a scholarship. Besides, Merci realizes she’s not as smart as her brother Roli, whose academic record far outshone her own and who now attends university. 

A few things haven’t changed since Merci was in the sixth grade. Lolo—her grandfather—is still suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Merci’s aunt, Tia Ines, still needs Merci’s help to care for her twins while she works at the bakery. And at school, the reprehensible snob Edna Santos continues to make Merci’s life miserable. 

But other things are changing. Her teacher, Miss McDaniels, assigns Merci to work in the school store with Wilson, a quick-witted boy who wears a leg brace. Merci knows what it’s like to feel awkward about one’s physical appearance; she has a lazy eye that drifts when she gets tired. Merci and Wilson strike up a friendship, but—wait!—what else is she feeling for him? As Merci navigates the first stirrings of romantic love, she observes and wonders about the couples in her family—Abuela and Lolo, Tia Ines and her boyfriend, and Mama and Papa—and what it’s like to kiss and hold hands and fall in love.  

In this gentle coming-of-age story—which, regrettably, contains profanity—Merci also confronts racist comments at school, articulating for her teacher the damage they cause: “It’s like getting paper cuts all the time, miss. They don’t look like much, but they hurt, especially if you get a lot of them, day after day.”  (Candlewick)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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