Title: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary
Author : NoNieqa Ramos
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: 02/01/18
Dates Read: 01/28/18 – 02/01/18
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“We like two hands of the same clock. Always connected. Sometimes in our own space, but we always meet. Nothing without each other. At least I’m nothing without her.”
Macy Cashmere (last name: MYOFB) is as “at-risk” youth as they come– She’s a racial minority, lives in poverty, comes from a very broken home, and is living with an emotional behavioral disorder (or ‘disturbed’ as she and others term it). With the cards stacked against her, Macy’s every day life is just a series of endure and survive and carry on.
When we meet Macy, she has many things intertwining together that are causing her life to become complicated. Macy’s younger brother, whom she adores, has been removed from the home by CPS, her father is incarcerated, her mother has no intentions of changing her lifestyle to better care for her child/children, and her best friend, Alma, who means the world to her (see quote above), is no longer speaking to her. What more could go wrong?!
This novel is written in a very interesting style and format. Written as a dictionary, Macy titles each entry with a word that means something to her life and journey. The grammar, spelling, slang-usage, and over-all vernacular match that of an adolescent living in poverty with a whole lot of grit and sass. This was very hard to get used to in the beginning, but I quickly adjusted and really admire the way that this showcases Macy’s personality.
And yall… her personality is HILARIOUS….
“A bafroom stall? That’s nasty. Ain’t you never heard of McDonald’s?”
“I stand there in my circle. But I’m not just a planet. I’m a star. I’m the sun and I burn like hell. Everybody needs me to shine, but I don’t need them for nothing. I can look down on them but they can’t look me in the eye. I burn. I burn because I’m mad. I’m mad enough to shine for the next zillion years. And you need me too. Love don’t make this world go round. I do.”
Macy is fierce, loyal, fearless, and headstrong. This girl has endured so many things during her short life that many could not even imagine. She has been forced to grow up in ways that a high school age student should not have to be experiencing already. Her heart beats for her younger brother and it is ripping her apart from the inside to know he is no longer with their family (and her mother does not seem to care). And this child’s loyalty to her friends is so strong and admirable–even if she shows it in atypical ways sometimes.
I loved that in the acknowledgements of this novel, Ramos states “Thank you, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for rescuing me from the Dead White Men’s Literary canon, for awakening the voices and cultivating the soil for future works. Everyone needs diverse books, and we need them written by diverse writers now and forever.” This was such a powerful statement and she did such a beautiful job of representing diversity and representing the underrepresented in this novel. We see racial diversity and witness Macy endure racial discrimination. We see poverty. We see incarceration and how the CPS system both breaks families and restores lives. Obviously mental illness is a huge player in this game and I really enjoyed some of snide remarks that Ramos sneaks into Macy’s dialogue that are so very real and ‘disturbing’ in themselves—“I guess here in suburbia, Asperger’s is in style. Obviously having a emotionally disturbed kid ain’t.”
And there was possibly even some diversity in the form of LGBQT(??). As I was reading, I got the sense many times that Macy was experiencing some revelations in her own sexual identity. There are a lot of outside factors (especially ones involving men) that shape the way that she acts toward her own body and men, but I felt like there was some internal transformations occurring as well. Maybe I am wrong… let me know your thoughts in the comments if you have read this title! I would love to know what you think. But there were definitely some small moments where the author shed light on some of the injustices that are seen with adolescents from the LGBQT population.
“A fifty-year-old woman who’s written up kids we all know for bringing their mom’s cocaine to school, stabbing someone in the eye with a pencil, giving five-dollar hand jobs in the parking lot, could not write up two girls in the restroom because she thought we were lesbians.
That was too much for her.”
If you read my blog, reviews, or know me in person, you probably already know that my heart and career are centered around working with middle school age students with emotional disabilities. This population often overlaps with minorities in both race and income, and I have had many students come through my classroom door that were part of the foster care (or group home) system. What I loved the most about this novel was that I could see the harsh realities and raw realism that was portrayed through Macy. I saw so many of my former students in her personality and the things she has overcome. Macy’s story was not the first time that I have seen a child hate 3-day weekends because it meant that they had one extra day of not knowing where their next meal would come from or love school because they had heat, a roof over their head, and felt safe.
I recommend this book to ANYONE… However, if you are an educator or work with at-risk youth in any way, this is a must read! Macy’s voice is so realistic. She jumps off the page and slaps you in the face with a little dose of reality, which is something we all need in order to be able to fully understand the adolescents that we work with. You can gain so much insight from Macy and start to develop an understanding for the ‘why’s’ for how she, as well as other students, may behave the way that they do.
Trigger Warning(s): There are references (only) to sexual assault/rape.
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a advanced DRC of this title in exchange for an honest review!