The Education of Margot Sanchez is about a teenage girl from the Bronx who needs to work at her father’s grocery store for a summer after being caught stealing his credit card for clothes. This sucks for Margot since all she wants is to fit in with the rich and popular girls at the private school she attends, and to hang out with them at their cottage for the summer. She would also much rather be flirting with a handsome and popular jock from her school, but instead finds herself strangely attracted to Moises, an activist boy from her neighbourhood who is advocating against the development of nearby apartment buildings.
The book didn’t quite grab me like I’d hoped it would, but I like how realistic the story felt. Racism isn’t explicitly discussed, but it’s hinted at in the various aspects of her appearance and her life that Margot feels she has to tone down or outright reject in order to fit in with the popular crowd. I thought that was very well done, and I can imagine this aspect of the book striking a chord with teen readers. Margot’s fretting over her image was annoying at times, and to be honest, I often thought she was a spoiled brat, but I also have to admit that her character also felt real. I can certainly imagine a teenage girl, surrounded by much wealthier classmates, wanting to pretend to be as wealthy as they are, and that a family grocery store, despite the hard work put into it, just doesn’t quite fit that image.
I also like the bits of drama around Margot’s family. I love the character of the mother, and wish we got to know more of her story. I especially love the scene where she told Margot of her decision to get married; it isn’t the most romantic story, but it’s probably the reality for some women. Junior was mostly a nuisance at first, but I like how his story developed and especially like the part where he gives Margot a gift and boasts that he’s a better adult than their parents. That bravado and desire to prove oneself, regardless of the cost, may end up being destructive, but it’s an understandable impulse, and true to this character.
The romance subplot fell flat for me, and though the book is clearly not about romance, Moises’ character still played a pretty big role and I had expected more. Similar to Margot’s childhood best friend and even the popular kids at Margot’s private school, Moises felt more like a symbol than an actual character. Margot’s choice between Moises and the kids at school is clearly a choice between her true self and the image she’s cultivated, and most of the secondary characters felt fairly one-dimensional.
The Education of Margot Sanchez is a realistic depiction of a Puerto Rican teen coming to terms with her family and her neighbourhood. I think it’ll strike a chord for many teen readers.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.