A preteen Mexican-American girl gains a locally famous white woman as her mentor—but feels like she’s losing her identity.
Jacinta Juárez is struggling with the absence of her mother when she meets newscaster Kathryn Dawson Dahl, whom Jacinta calls “Miss,” and decides the journalist will be her mentor no matter what. Jacinta has no qualms manipulating the people and situations around her to reach her goal, making her a difficult protagonist to sympathize with. While Jacinta and Miss’ relationship is anything but sweet, Miss offers an escape from stifling responsibilities and new experiences: Jacinta takes gymnastics lessons, French class, and attends the ballet. But as the once-naïve Jacinta’s world expands, so does her confusion about where she belongs. When her undocumented parents are threatened, Jacinta looks to Miss for help but finds her new experiences have given her new confidence to face challenges. Sometimes Jacinta’s ignorance makes sense given her situation, but at other times it feels forced. More distressing, however, are statements like, “I realized power doesn’t come from your job or the color of your skin. Real power comes from inside. It’s not something that someone can give you. And it’s not something that anyone can take away,” which paint a positive veneer on difficult, complex issues without simple fixes.
Still, a valiant effort that wrestles with important, complex themes. (Fiction. 10-14)