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Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Merci Suárez Changes Gears

by Meg Medina

Narrated by Frankie Corzo

Unabridged — 7 hours, 9 minutes

Meg Medina

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Overview

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don't have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci's school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna's jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci's grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately—forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she's left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school—and the steadfast connection that defines family.



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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Melissa Walker

Caught between the world of family and peers, the comfort of Las Casitas and the enticing new call of independence, Merci Suárez is a delightful heroine who, despite real challenges, never wavers in her strong sense of self or her fierce love for la familia. Readers will appreciate watching her navigate how to hold on to what matters when it feels like everything is changing.

Publishers Weekly

★ 08/06/2018
In this warmly told story, Medina (Burn Baby Burn) introduces 11-year-old Merci, descendent of Cuban immigrants, who attends a Florida private school on scholarship with her whip-smart older brother. Merci doesn’t feel much pressure to be anyone but herself, but her self-assuredness (“It’s never too early to work on your corporate leadership skills,” she declares at one point) makes her a target: rich kid Edna tries to put Merci outside the sixth grade girls’ friend circle, and the clashes make school miserable (“No offense is what Edna says right before she takes a hatchet to your feelings,” she reports). Merci’s home life is also stressful—money is tight, her beloved grandfather is failing, and familial obligations (mostly babysitting twin cousins) mean there’s no chance to try out for the school soccer team. Through all this, Medina keeps the tone light as Merci’s take-charge personality helps her to succeed in this coming-of-age tale about family and the perils of sixth grade. Ages 9–12. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

Caught between the world of family and peers, the comfort of Las Casitas and the enticing new call of independence, Merci Suárez is a delightful heroine who, despite real challenges, never wavers in her strong sense of self or her fierce love for la familia. Readers will appreciate watching her navigate how to hold on to what matters when it feels like everything is changing.
—The New York Times Book Review

A beautiful book, an important work. —R. J. Palacio, New York Times best-selling author of Wonder

Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a tenderhearted, funny, realistic, and ultimately heartbreaking story. —R. J. Palacio, New York Times best-selling author of Wonder

Meg Medina is the author I studied, and still study, to learn how to write for children. Her ear is impeccable; the way she captures not only dialogue but also communicates adolescent feelings without being condescending nor pitching extra soft softballs. Few people get the balance of writing about and for teens right.
—Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times bestselling author

Medina’s breathtaking coming-of-age story features a strong, deeply honest protagonist whose insights will make readers laugh, as well as dynamic secondary characters that reveal glimmers of profound depth. Medina capably gets to the heart of middle school experiences in this engrossing story of a kid growing into herself. A must read.
—Booklist (starred review)

Medina writes about the joys of multigenerational home life (a staple of the Latinx community) with a touching, humorous authenticity. Merci's relationship with Lolo is heartbreakingly beautiful and will particularly strike readers who can relate to the close, chaotic, and complicated bonds of live-in grandparents. Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina’s life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it’s the ride that matters. Pura Belpré–winning author Medina cruises into readers’ hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library’s shelves.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, rev. 3/13; Burn Baby Burn, rev. 3/16) consistently and assuredly portrays Latinx girls and women who grapple with their insecurities while learning about themselves and their worlds, and middle-grade heroine Merci is a fine example. Accurate and natural use of Spanish words and sayings that fit each character’s tone builds authenticity. Medina writes with sincerity and humor to convey the experience of growing up in a close-knit family that tends to mingle too much in each other’s business while unfailingly and dedicatedly supporting and helping one another.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

In this warmly told story, Medina (Burn Baby Burn) introduces 11-year-old Merci, descendent of Cuban immigrants, who attends a Florida private school on scholarship with her whip-smart older brother...Medina keeps the tone light as Merci’s take-charge personality helps her to succeed in this coming-of-age tale about family and the perils of sixth grade.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Merci is a relatable character who has her faults but who tries to navigate middle school and stay true to herself and her family. This novel is well-written and contains characters and situations that are complex and realistic. The family’s culture plays a large role in the text. This novel would be a wonderful addition to any library.
—School Library Connection

Fans of school and family dramas will enjoy the usual negotiations and a few fresh twists (Merci ends up friends with Michael but another girl becomes his girlfriend), and they’ll ponder the message that life can be not fair and still worth it.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.
—BookRiot (e-newsletter)

Award-winning author Medina delivers a warm, comic tribute to the agonies and ecstasies of intergenerational families...[Merci] and her big, infuriating, lovable family are real enough that readers will wish they could live next door. Grade: A
—The Plain Dealer

Feisty Cuban-American Merci fends of sixth-grade bullies at school while worrying about her grandpa’s failing health at home. A moving coming-of-age tale.
—People Magazine

Medina, who won the Pura Belpre Author Award for young adult novel, "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass," offers a marvelous portrait of a loving, hard-working, Hispanic family and a vividly realistic picture of the confusion of the middle school years through the unforgettable voice of Merci Suãrez.
—Buffalo News

Here’s another beautifully written exploration of a close-knit family dealing with some tough issues and a young girl on the edge of adolescence.
—The Booklist Reader

With humor, honesty and heart, author Medina tackles the tugs and pulls in Merci’s life…A terrific character, Merci is respectful and forthright, vulnerable but strong, steadfastly striving to define herself.
—San Francisco Chronicle

A book packed with truth, love, and questions. Meg Medina shows us how small, real-life moments can add up in powerful ways. Merci Suárez has my heart.
—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award-winning author of When You Reach Me

Read this book so that Merci Suárez will become a light forever shining in your heart. She will remind you of the kind person that you are deep down and of the hero you can be
—Francisco X. Stork

Medina writes with profound respect for her readers, not holding back on showing the circumstances that can make growing up an adventure of ups and downs. . . . Layered with humor, Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a heartwarming story about a smart, talented, and thoughtful girl who refuses to let all that’s changing keep her from holding on to what matters most.
—Renée Watson, author of What Momma Left Me

Meg Medina’s honest and straightforward account of adolescence in Merci Suárez Changes Gears makes her the Judy Blume for a new generation of readers.
—Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez

Meg Medina reminds us that families’ sharing troubles with their youngest members both makes them feel part of the greater whole and empowers them.
—Maria from Sesame Street and author of Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx

But merci, merci me, did I love this girl. Hardheaded but softhearted, she’s a character who really reads like so many middle-school girls. . . . Merci’s got her family issues and her friend issues and her schoolwork and her passions. . . . There are sixth-grade girls like this. Lots of ’em. I’m glad they have Merci.
—Jenesse Evertson, bbgb books, Richmond, VA

I loved this sympathetic, vibrant character who opens her heart as she begins to understand the changes going on around her. She will walk right into your heart, too.
—Carol Moyer, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

Be sure to have Kleenex handy, because you’re going to fall in love with Merci Suárez and her world and I guarantee there will be tears. I read Merci Suárez in just about one sitting and sobbed my way through the last fifty pages. If it made me feel this seen at age thirty-two, I can only imagine the impact it will have on twelve-year-olds.
—Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

Bravo to Meg Medina! Merci’s story has depth, heart, and authenticity. Her changing relationship with her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is especially poignant.
—Margaret Orto, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

I LOVED Merci Suárez Changes Gears! I read it in one sitting and was late for everything because I couldn’t walk away from it. . . . Meg Medina has created the kind of heroine that every girl can cheer on, embrace, and see herself in. . . . That Merci still fights for her independence while fiercely loving her familia y cultura is what gives this book such an enduring quality. This is a coming-of-age story that will stay with girls throughout their lives. When we think about the great stories we read as adolescents — like Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — I can see Merci Suaréz right next to them. I wish with all my heart that I had a book like this when I was a niña entering the sixth grade, and it will be such a joy to put it in my customers’ hands.
—Angela Maria Spring, Duende District Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

Meg Medina has scored again with Merci Suárez Changes Gears! . . . I can’t wait to get it in our store next fall!
—Clarissa Hadge, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA

School Library Journal

★ 07/01/2018
Gr 4–7—Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez is starting sixth grade and everything is changing. Not only do upper graders have to switch teachers throughout the day, but playing sports, like Merci loves to do, is seen as babyish and befriending boys is taboo. So when Merci is assigned to show new kid Michael Clark around as part of her scholarship package at Seaward Pines Academy, it's a problem. Especially when the richest, smartest, most popular girl in school, Edna, who gets to write the sixth grade's social rules and break them, too, seems to like Michael. Meanwhile, at home, Merci has to watch over her little twin cousins who live close by at Las Casitas, a row of houses belonging to Mami and Papi; Abuela and Lolo; and Tia, for free, so trying out for the school's soccer team and earning money to buy her dream bike is almost impossible. What's worse, Merci can't even talk to her beloved Lolo about all her problems like she used to as he starts acting less and less like himself. The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina's life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it's the ride that matters. VERDICT Pura Belpré—winning author Medina cruises into readers' hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library's shelves.—Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2018-06-25
Merci navigates the challenges of being a scholarship kid at a posh South Florida private school and the expectations of and responsibilities to her intergenerational family.Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez isn't the typical Seaward Pines Academy sixth-grader. Instead of a stately mansion, Merci lives with her parents and older brother, Roli, in one of three identical homes next to her Cuban-American extended family: Abuela and Lolo, Tía Inéz, and her rambunctious little twin cousins. At school, Merci has to deal with condescending mean girl Edna Santos, who loves to brag, boss around her friends, and throw out hurtful comments that start with "No offense…." Although Merci wants to earn money so that she can afford a new bike, she's stuck volunteering for Sunshine Buddies, in which current students mentor new ones. What's worse is that her assigned buddy is Michael Clark, a new tall white boy in her class. At home, Merci's beloved Lolo begins to act erratically, and it becomes clear something secret and serious is happening. Medina writes about the joys of multigenerational home life (a staple of the Latinx community) with a touching, humorous authenticity. Merci's relationship with Lolo is heartbreakingly beautiful and will particularly strike readers who can relate to the close, chaotic, and complicated bonds of live-in grandparents.Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-13)

Product Details

BN ID: 2940172474781
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 11/15/2019
Series: Merci Suárez Series , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

To think, only yesterday I was in chancletas, sipping lemonade and watching my twin cousins run through the sprinkler in the yard. Now, I’m here in Mr. Patchett’s class, sweating in my polyester school blazer and waiting for this torture to be over.
We’re only halfway through health and PE when he adjusts his tight collar and says, “Time to go.”
I stand up and push in my chair, like we’re always supposed to, grateful that picture day means that class ends early. At least we won’t have to start reading the first chap-ter in the textbook: “I’m OK, You’re OK: On Differences as We Develop.”
“Coming, Miss Suárez?” he asks me as he flips off the lights.
That’s when I realize I’m the only one still waiting for him to tell us to line up.  Everyone else has already headed out the door.
This is sixth grade, so there won’t be one of the PTA moms walking us down to the photographer. Last year, our escort pumped us up by gushing the  whole way about how handsome and beautiful we all looked on the first day of school, which was a stretch since a few of us had mouthfuls of braces or big gaps between our front teeth.
But that’s over now. Here at Seaward Pines Academy, sixth-graders don’t have the same teacher all day, like Miss Miller in the fifth grade. Now we have homerooms and lockers. We switch classes. We can finally try out for sports teams.
And we know how to get ourselves down to picture day just fine —     or at least the rest of my class does. I grab my new book bag and hurry out to join the others.
It’s a wall of heat out here. It won’t be a far walk, but August in Florida is brutal, so it doesn’t take long for my glasses to fog up and the curls at my temples to spring into tight coils. I try my best to stick to the shade near the building, but it’s hopeless. The slate path that winds to the front of the gym cuts right across the quad, where there’s not a single scrawny palm tree to shield us. It makes me wish we had one of those thatch-roof walkways that my grandfather Lolo can build out of fronds.
“How do I look?” someone asks.
I dry my lenses on my shirttail and glance over. We’re all in the same uniform, but some of the girls got special hairdos for the occasion, I notice. A few were even flat-ironed; you can tell from the little burns on their necks. Too bad they don’t have some of my curls. Not that everyone appreciates them, of course. Last year, a kid named Dillon said I look like a lion, which was fine with me, since I love those big cats. Mami is always nagging me about keeping it out of my eyes, but she doesn’t know that hid-ing behind it is the best part. This morning, she slapped a school- issue headband on me. All it’s done so far is give me a headache and make my glasses sit crooked.
“Hey,” I say. “It’s a broiler out here. I know a shortcut.”
The girls stop in a glob and look at me. The path I’m pointing to is clearly marked with a sign.
MAINTENANCE CREWS ONLY. 
NO STUDENTS BEYOND THIS POINT.
No one in this crowd is much for breaking rules, but sweat is already beading above their glossed lips, so maybe they’ll be sensible. They’re looking to one another, but mostly to Edna Santos.
“Come on, Edna,” I say, deciding to go straight to the top. “It’s faster, and we’re melting out here.”
She frowns at me, considering the options. She may be a teacher’s pet, but I’ve seen Edna bend a rule or two.  Making faces outside our classroom if she’s on a bathroom pass.  Changing an answer for a friend when we’re self-checking a quiz. How much worse can this be?
I take a step closer. Is she taller than me now? I pull back my shoulders just in case. She looks older somehow than she did in June, when we were in the same class.  Maybe it’s the blush on her cheeks or the mascara that’s making little raccoon circles under her eyes? I try not to stare and just go for the big guns.
“You want to look sweaty in your picture?” I say. 
Cha- ching.
In no time, I’m leading the pack of us along the gravel path. We cross the maintenance parking lot, dodging debris. Back here is where Seaward hides the riding mow-ers and all the other untidy equipment they need to make the campus look like the brochures. Papi and I parked here last summer when we did some painting as a trade for our book fees. I don’t tell anyone that, though, because Mami says it’s “a private matter.” But mostly, I keep quiet because I’m trying to erase the memory.  Seaward’s gym is ginormous, so it took us three whole days to paint it. Plus, our school colors are fire- engine red and gray. You know what happens when you stare at bright red too long? You start to see green balls in front of your eyes every time you look away. Hmpf. Try doing detail work in that blinded condition. For all that, the school should give me and my brother, Roli, a whole library, not just a few measly text-books. Papi had other ideas, of course. “Do a good job in here,” he insisted, “so they know we’re serious people.” I hate when he says that. Do people think we’re clowns? It’s like we’ve always got to prove something.
      Anyway, we make it to the gym in half the time. The back door is propped open, the way I knew it would be. The head custodian keeps a milk crate jammed in the door frame so he can read his paper in peace when no one’s looking.
“This way,” I say, using my take-charge voice. I’ve been trying to perfect it, since it’s never too early to work on your corporate leadership skills, according to the manual Papi got in the mail from the chamber of commerce, along with the what- to- do- in- a-hurricane guidelines.
So far, it’s working. I walk us along back rooms and even past the boys’ locker room, which smells like bleach and dirty socks. When we reach a set of double doors, I pull them open proudly. I’ve saved us all from that awful trudge through the heat.
“Ta-  da,” I say.
    Unfortunately, as soon as we step inside, it’s obvious that I’ve landed us all in hostile territory.

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