“Does My Body Offend You?” is a realistic fiction novel written by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt. It tackles multiple mature topics, such as sexual trauma, racism, sexism, and homophobia/transphobia with a confident handle on how it should be represented as it is in real life. The book features two main protagonists and their friend groups; Malena Malavé Rosario, a Latina high schooler who was forced to move to Florida after Hurricane Maria hit her home of Puerto Rico, and Ruby McAlister, a passionate feminist and all-round activist who moved from Seattle to Florida to look after her recovering Nana. At the beginning of the story, Malena is sent to the nurse’s office for not wearing a bra under her shirt and is forced to tape pantyliners over her nipples. Ruby convinces her to try to fight back and helps her start a long journey down the rabbit hole of activism. Malena learns to stand up for herself and her beliefs and Ruby learns to understand that everyone’s struggles are valid, no matter how different they are from yourself and what you’ve been through.
My first impression of this novel was already quite positive. As a queer person of color myself, I heavily related to the themes expressed in this book. Even then, as I started to get much more invested in how far the protagonists had grown, the plot twists, and the overall morals that were themed in the story, I was taken on an absolute emotional rollercoaster. The story features a cast of diverse and multi-faceted characters, allowing their flaws and strengths not to overtake each other, but complement them.
As for the main idea of the book, the theme of, “standing up for your right to be comfortable and confident” was expressed very well. Typically around the age that puberty is rampant, such as middle or high school, lots of hormones as well as outside media can rain into your mind and hit you all at once. It’s not always easy to see what you truly feel like. Often, it mixes you up so much your thoughts, emotions, and actions all become affected by it. The protagonists were bystanders, confused and in turmoil amongst multitudes of other things throughout the events of the story. Once they communicated that to one another, it became much easier for them to understand what their real message was.
The writing was in an attention-grabbing style as well, a seamless format that made connecting with the characters much easier. The flow of action from one point of view or event to another like pieces of a mismatched puzzle coming together was truly stunning to me. All of the characters’ experiences came together to form a full understanding of their perspectives and how that influenced their actions. They were able to show more depth to their characters, making them infinitely more realistic and enjoyable.
The most memorable part of the book was the central theme in and of itself. It wasn’t only what drew me to the book in the first place, but also what made me stick till the end and want to keep flipping the pages whilst I was still reading it. It’s a true, well-spoken message that was handled extremely realistically, and overall is just absolutely mind-blowing.