Newbery Honor: Iveliz Explains it All by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Iveliz Explains It All follows a 13-year-old girl into depression following a traumatic event, with signs of hope toward the end.

Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango. Random House, 2022, 263 pages

Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15

Recommended for: ages 12-15

Iveliz (pronounced Ee-veh-LEASE) is starting 7th grade with a new attitude, after two years of constant trouble at school. Her list of resolutions seems do-able, but it breaks down on the first day of school with a visit to the principal’s office. That same week? School Behavior Intervention for shoving a girl who assumes Ive’s grandmother is moving to Baltimore as an illegal immigrant. Puerto Ricans are not illegal, and not immigrants—PR is a US territory, you racists (and maybe a few other words, too). The white kids in her class never get in trouble, but Iveliz? All the time. Her best friend Amir is always ready to listen and sympathize, but there are things she can’t even tell him. Only to her new journal can she reveal what’s really going on.

Mimi is moving to the States because she has Alzheimer’s and also because Hurricane Maria destroyed her home. “Now Mimi is here and I can’t help but think/ this is my second chance at home,/ the opportunity to fill all the silence/ and hurt/ and past,/the chance to be forgiven–/ not by praying,/ but in real life.” Sometimes Mimi seems sympathetic, but sometimes not. And Mami is busy with work, and worried about Iveliz, and trying to decide on boundaries for Mimi—not much help. Dad relieves the tension sometimes, but only when he shows up.

Iveliz Explains It All is the story of a young teen descending into depression, searching for truth, facing up to her own shortcomings, and finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. It could be a lot more depressing than it is, but her voice, liberally salted with Spanish, keeps the reader involved and sympathetic. She does have a loving family, a capable therapist, and one true friend, but though the family attends church there’s no consolation in God or religion. Without that sure and steady anchor, we’re left to wonder what high school will be like for her.

And something else I wonder about: The stats on teen depression are rising, and alarming. More and more experts are coming to the conclusion that social media is a major culprit, if not the major culprit. Where are the YA books about that?

Overall Rating: 3.75

Worldview/moral value: 3.5

Artistic/literary value: 4

Read more about our ratings here.                 

Rounding out the 2023 Newbery Honor List, see our reviews of:

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

The Last Mapmaker

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