Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt is a fantastic YA novel that tackles tough, relevant topics in an engaging and engrossing way. Full of visceral moments that will pull you right back into those high school days, where at any moment you could be forced to stand and have your hem measured in front of the entire class.
Malena has already had her life turned upside down by Hurricane Maria. When a severe sunburn prevents her from wearing a bra, a teacher at her high school flags her for a dress code violation, leading to Malena being shamed and admonished by the school nurse and secretary. Ruby is new at this school, too, but knows that what she sees happening to Malena in the nurse’s office is wrong. Ruby and Malena team up to fight the sexist dress code, but starting a revolution has unexpected consequences.
What makes this novel so impossible to put down is the combination of spectacular character development and the natural, organic intersectionality of these issues. Does My Body Offend You? doesn’t shy away from any topic, but it also doesn’t stretch to try and pack in non-related issues. Is this book totally relevant and relatable? Yes. Does it feel like these issues are forced and the book is just trying to talk about hot button issues? Not even a little bit.
Ruby’s experience in social activism has her primed for a fight, but she struggles to recognize her privilege. Malena feels as though she has lost her voice since her displacement from Puerto Rico, but can’t seem to bridge the gap between who she was there and who she is perceived to be in the U.S. Each will have to face their shortcomings and blind spots head on in order to heal.
Each character in this large cast is incredibly well developed. Malena and Ruby aren’t the only ones facing up to their own problematic perceptions. Malena’s cousin Carlos is a baseball superstar, and gets his own special privileges. Ruby’s sister wants so desperately to change the world, she forgets who she’s wanting to change it for. And Malena is so tired of being adrift, of being looked upon with pity, that she loses sight of what made her, her to begin with.
I loved how each time Malena and Ruby made a poor choice, it made sense for their character. This isn’t one of those books where everyone is perfect, but the characters are flawed in realistic and relatable ways. It never felt like the authors were manipulating the characters to make a point or include another hot take. Instead, each scene feels organic and natural.
This novel should be required reading for every high schooler, as it so accurately reflects and acutely pinpoints how we can be blind to our own issues and privileges. It also shows constructive ways to make a positive and lasting change, regardless of your age.
Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children’s, Knopf Books for Young Readers, and the authors for an advanced ebook such that I could write this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Does My Body Offend You? is available now! You can purchase from Amazon here and from Bookshop.org here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and Amazon. I will earn a commission (at no cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.
Content warning below contains hints of a spoiler. Proceed with caution.
This novel contains scenes of sexual harassment and unwanted groping that may be difficult for some readers. No descriptions are gratuitous and all sensitive topics are handled gently.