by Tami Charles
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Pub Date 17 Sep 2019 | Archive Date 16 Sep 2019
Charlesbridge, Charlesbridge Teen
—Debbie Allen, star of Fame
"Redemption is a heartbeat away."
—Guadalupe Garcia McCall, author of the Pura Belpre Award winner Under the Mesquite
Beatriz dreams of a life spent dancing--until tragedy on the day of her quinceañera changes everything.
Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez was her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days--that and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her brother's gang needs running, when her mami can't brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is: will the gang let her go?
Set in New Jersey in 1984, Beatriz's story is a timeless one of a teenager's navigation of romance, her brother's choices, and her own family's difficult past. A companion novel to the much-lauded Like Vanessa.
Praise for Tami Charles's debut novel Like Vanessa:
* "Superb." --Booklist, starred review
* "A treasure." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Emotionally potent; engaging." --Foreword Reviews, starred review
* "Truly remarkable." --Shelf Awareness
* "A refreshing new voice." --Publishers Weekly
* National advertising campaign
* Select author appearances
* Social networking promotions
* National advertising campaign
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Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 78 members
Disclaimer: I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions and thoughts.
This book was so refreshingly different from any other YA book I’ve ever read! You could probably tell from the synopsis that the main character and her family life is very unorthodox, which was interesting. The book is also set in 1984 New Jersey which makes it even more unique.
The book starts out with a lot of action which sucked me in and was a great way to introduce a character’s life that is filled with fear and violence. Tami Charles’ writing was spot on for a YA book, capturing the attitude and thoughts of a fifteen year old perfectly. Beatriz is both black and Puerto Rican, and I admired the diversity displayed by the characters. Lots of Spanish is sprinkled throughout the book, most of it simple enough that I understood what was being said, but even if I didn’t I would have still known what has going on. I also appreciated that there was only a little bit of romance, but it wasn’t super cheesy because that wouldn’t have made sense for the main characters personality.
There were some parts of the book that I would have liked to be elaborated a bit more. We don’t see much of Beatriz’s grieving process, nor do we really see it at all. I would think that the death of a brother would effect someone much more than Beatriz seemed to be. I also would have liked to have seen flashbacks to what was happening right before her brothers death. We know she was dancing with him and she believes it’s “her fault”, but it’s not clear exactly why she thinks it’s her fault.
I loved reading about a girl that is passionate about dance because I’ve never really known much about competitive dancing. Also, the college I go to was mentioned in the book which is always exciting! Overall, I was very impressed with this book and how Tami Charles made me care about and connect with Breatriz, despite her life being very different from mine.
Heartbreaking ~ Truthful ~ Hopeful
tl; dr: Young black Puerto Rican girl deals with the stress of poverty, gangs, and violence.
This story is not true but certainly rings true. Many young people suffer for no reason other than the circumstances of their birth. Beatriz is living by her wits with the help of her brother until tragedy strikes. Sadly, her family's tragedy is all too common in her Puerto Rican community. This historical story, set in the late 20th century, shows how violence is often a symptom and a cause of the cycle of poverty. This story is no glossed over feel good. The story is complicated and real. I rarely read the author's notes, but was glad to have read this one. The author mentions that she wanted to complicate people's ideas about diversity. She certainly does that in this book.
Thanks to NetGallery for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
<b>Gracias a [author:Tami Charles|14775736] y al editor por proporcionar un ARC a cambio de una reseña sincera y es un honor leer esta historia. Esto no afecta en mis opiniones de forma alguna.</b>
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Beatriz sueña con una vida dedicada a bailar, hasta que la tragedia del día de su quinceañera lo cambia todo. Hasta su decimoquinto cumpleaños, lo más importante para Beatriz Méndez en el mundo era su sueño de convertirse en bailarina profesional y conseguir que ella y su familia se alejaran de la vida de pandilla que definía sus días: eso y conocer a su ídolo de baile Debbie Allen en el set de su programa de televisión favorito, Fame. Pero después de la última batalla en una guerra constante deja a su hermano líder de la pandilla, Junito, muerto y su madre afligida, Beatriz tiene un nuevo conjunto de prioridades. ¿Cómo se supone que debe sentir el ritmo cuando su familia necesita huir, cuando su madre no puede lavarse los dientes y cuando lo último que puede recordar de su antiguo yo es bailar con su hermano, seguido de correr y disparos? Cuando la clase de cerebritos le recuerda a Beatriz su amor por la pista de baile, sus sueños desterrados vuelven a colarse. Ahora la única pregunta es: ¿la pandilla la dejará ir? Ambientada en Nueva Jersey en 1984, la historia de Beatriz es atemporal en la navegación de un adolescente por el romance, la cultura de pandillas y el difícil pasado de su propia familia.
<img src="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-b6T6ee9cJVA/XGswTBAve4I/AAAAAAAADfI/AjPb6_kjqA0Sgq7Lbksx-wo5wDnSDGQDgCPcBGAYYCw/s1600/op2.jpg" width="200" height="50" alt="description"/>
¡Este libro fue tan diferente de cualquier otro libro juvenil que haya leído antes! Es fácil de decir por la sinopsis que la protagonista y su vida familiar son muy poco ortodoxos, lo cual fue interesante. El libro está ambientado en 1984, Nueva Jersey, lo que lo hace aún más único todavía.
Esta historia es el claro ejemplo de que algunas personas sufren por circunstancias de nacimiento y que suelen interferir en sus ambiciones y sueños. También, la protagonista está rodeada de tragedias: la muerte de su hermano es un ejemplo de ello y esto afecta gravemente a sus planes de futuro. La novela es trágica y real. No suelo leer las notas de autor, pero me alegro de haberlo hecho en esta ocasión. Menciona que quiere complicar la visión que tiene la gente sobre la diversidad, y vaya si lo hace.
Volviendo a la historia, Beatriz tiene los sueños y aspiraciones de cualquier chica de quince años. A pesar de estar escrito originalmente en inglés, hay mucho español a lo largo del libro, lo suficientemente simple como para cualquier angloparlante pueda entenderlo.
Había romance, sí, pero tan poco que encajaba a la perfección con la actitud de los protagonistas. Me decepciona un poco ver que la muerte de su hermano afectó tan poco a la protagonista, que cualquiera diría que no eran muy cercanos. Me hubiera gustado ver más detallada todo lo previo a la escena trágica de su hermano. Beatriz piensa que es su culpa, pero no da motivos por los que piensa eso y el lector se queda un poco con la duda de saber realmente qué pasó.
Me ha encantado aprender sobre el mundo de la danza, porque a no ser que estés inmerso en ese mundo, apenas sabes lo que pasa.
Este libro me ha gustado porque la autora se ha implicado de tal forma que hace que quieras conectar y empatizar con la protagonista.
El libro no estará disponible hasta septiembre de 2019, y le agradezco a la autora y al editor que me hayan prestado un archivo para dar mi opinión personal.
I’ve been having a hard time lately with books not being able to hold my attention. Luckily this was not a problem for “Becoming Beatriz”
This story explores a young woman navigating the gang life that supports her family while trying to pursue her dreams of dancing and it does it well. I hate reading a story of someone trying to better their life but they can never seem to catch a break. Throughout the story, I could tell that Beatriz did have truly loyal support systems which was refreshing.
I have never been a dancer but I’ve always been fascinated with shows and movies that show that life. ‘Fame’ and the incomparable Debbie Allen serve as a beautifully nostalgic thread throughout this story. If today’s readers don’t know who Ms. Allen is I hope this story spurs them to learn more.
Five stars because I was interested throughout, it talks about Fame, and I didn’t think the protagonist was put through unnecessary hardship.
Thoroughly enjoyed Tami Charles’ second book and how it tied into Like Vanessa. This was an engaging story of family, bravery, and friendship. It would pair nicely with Lilliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dream as part of an exploration of how girls in gangs are treated in YA literature.
This book was a great YA novel that was fresh and unique compared to the stereotypes of the genre. I loved how diverse all of the characters were, and how different cultures were portrayed, which gave the book a sense of realism. All of the character's and story lines were realistic, and it was really easy to imagine myself in the shoes of any one of the characters. The plot was well developed and kept me turning the pages. I completely recommend this book for anyone?
Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
On Beatriz’s 15th birthday, she’s dancing, preparing for her quinceanera, when the shots start. In one quick moment, her life changes when her brother, the leader of a fictional gang, is killed by a rival gang in a revenge killing.
The story then picks up a few months later as Beatriz begins her freshmen year of high school. She initially views high school as unnecessary and just as a place to continue pushing the drug products that her gang is selling.
However, what she doesn’t expect is Nasser, a high school junior who encourages her to start dancing again.
But Beatriz is torn between her life in the gang and her life outside of it. Can both exist? Must she choose? And if so, how can she can get out of this gang?
Becoming Beatriz acts a companion novel to the upper middle grade Like Vanesssa. While some characters reappear, this does act as a stand alone as well. In this novel, we get a very serious look at some of the darker sides of Newark in 1984. While this is fictional, it is rooted heavily in historical facts. Throughout this novel, we never see the author preaching at us about the impact of gangs on communities; her story speaks for itself.
And what a story it is. It’s definitely one worth checking out.
I didn’t know what to expect from this book but as soon as I started it I loved every minute, when I was younger I danced so reading about dance is always enjoyable, I love the main character and her support system around her ✨
Netgalley gave me this ARC in exchange for a honest review.
Beatriz is an entertaining protagonist, who grows and matures throughout the story. Rediscovering dancing transforms her. Her relationship with Nasser was sweet. Despite their differences, they see the best in each other. Many side characters, like Amy and Mr. Martin, were three dimensional despite small roles.
Only Julicza and Maricela are underdeveloped, despite being Beatriz’s close friends. Readers learn little about their lives.
Many descriptions were lovely and evocative. I especially enjoyed reading the scenes where Beatriz danced. My only issue with the writing style is the filter words cluttering the narrative. They weaken otherwise strong sentences.
Becoming Beatriz is a companion novel to Like Vanessa, which I haven’t read.
However, I never felt confused or lost. The author’s notes at the end of the novel are interesting. Tami Charles based aspects of the story off her life.
Overall, Becoming Beatriz is an emotional, entertaining, and romantic read.
This was such a beautiful book. I loved the diversity and the correctness of its representation. There was no white washing, just blatant realism of minority cultures, gang culture and life in general. I especially liked the fact that the characters weren't black and white but shades of grey. No one is perfect and it was shown perfectly in the book.
But what my favourite part of the book was how perfectly it gives us a glimpse as to why children become part of gangs, why they start drug dealing and why you can't always judge and the fact that they themselves might feel trapped in the gang they call their own and how difficult it is to get out.
I honestly believe that this book should be read more and have a better reach. For people looking for more diversity, this book is for you.
It's 1984, and Beatriz is a 15-year-old gang leader in Newark, NJ. A tragedy on the day of her quinceañera has reset her thinking on a few things, including her passion: dance. Enter a smart, sensitive boy, who comes from the wrong Caribbean island to hang out with Puerto Rican Beatriz and her friends.
I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I really liked Beatriz as a protagonist. She grows throughout the story and rediscovering dance transforms her. I liked how the author put an emphasis on her identity as an Afro Latina.
Her relationship with Nasser was really sweet and it felt genuine. The two are really different characters but they both genuinely saw the best in each other and helped the other achieve their goals. They really brought the best out of the other.
The writing in the book is really beautiful and evocative. I really enjoyed reading the scenes where Beatriz dances. The author really knows how to evoke emotion in the reader and Beatriz's passion for dance really hops off the pages.
Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Becoming Beatriz is the story of Beatriz Mendez, who is tramautized by her brother's death and struggles with realizing her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting out of the gang life while also remaining true to her brother's memory and legacy. There are A LOT of issues to unpack in this novel, and because it's fairly short and full of important things that should be talked about, I feel like a lot of stuff was glossed over, which made it feel like there just wasn't enough focus to it.
However, I really liked Beatriz and was right there with her, frustrated for her being in the circumstances she was in, and wanting her and her family to succeed. I appreciated that she was able to learn from her brother's mistakes as well as her past and that dance lifted her up to find courage to start saying away from her life in the gang. As someone who danced in high school, it was wonderful to read a description of how dance can take you away.
All in all, this is a decent read. Some of the pacing was off and I wish more of the characters were fully developed, but the plot whizzes by with conflict after conflict, which makes for an engaging read.
I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this, it was a refreshing YA book which is always nice. I loved the diversity in this book and how different cultures were portrayed.
I think Beatriz is a great protagonist, you really could place yourself in her shoes and understand why she did the things she did. I also really liked Nasser and the way his relationship with Beatriz evolved. I think something I didn't like was that it felt very much as if the book told us a lot of things but didn't actually show them to us, which is something I always have an issue with. And because this book is quite short, it felt like some things were a bit too rushed.
Overall it was a good read and unique in a way that I think lots of people will enjoy this and should give this a read.
Actual rating: 3.5
I don't think I've read anything quite like this, and I'm glad that different stories are getting a chance to be told. The author herself wrote the following about this in her author's note:
"It is my hope that this novel opens up more conversation about diversity within diversity. These types of conversations add to the growing spectrum of stories that show there is no single, authentic, lived experience in communities of color. As authors, we are the lucky ones that get to show all of this on page."
I do feel a little conflicted about this novel though. In a lot of ways, I thought it was a really good read. It deals with important topics that aren't usually discussed, and it does so in an often evocative way. The setting is something I haven't seen a lot as well. The story is set in 1984. Beatriz has a lot going on in her day to day life, as she's dealing with her brother's murder and she's involved with a gang. This obviously puts a lot of pressure on her, and it's clear that she only has a chance to show certain parts of her identity around different people. Then she meets Nasser, and they start dancing together and audition for the TV show Fame. I thought the story was quite promising, and I did love the romance aspect of this novel as well. However, the pacing was a little off at times, and the book relied quite heavily on telling rather than showing. I thought some issues were wrapped up rather hastily at the end of the novel, when they deserved more unpacking. I would have liked to see more character growth in Beatriz as well.
All in all, this was absolutely worth the read though! I just think there was a lot to discuss in a fairly short novel, so not every issue got the attention it deserved.
Rep: Black Puerto Rican MC, Haitian love interest.
CWs: murder, guns, (gang-related) violence, blood, drugdealing, grief, colorism, homophobic violence.
This book was very different to your usual YA fic format but I think that’s why I liked it more. It’s set in the 1984 but compared to ‘Wing Jones’ (also set in the past) where I could feel the absence of modern technology, this was seamless. In fact I kind of forgot about it until the ‘Fame’ references. At the heart of ‘Becoming Beatriz’ is this girl caught between her deep passion for dance and the life of being a gang member. Watching Beatriz’s character development was such a delight, especially seeing her come alive with dance. I also loved the strong sense of diversity and community woven through the entire story.
Overall, I also really enjoyed ‘Becoming Beatriz’. This book definitely surprised me and seeing Beatriz strive for her dream resonated with me a lot. It’s a very inspiring read.
What an intense yet beautiful story. I live in a developing country myself, and am not blind to the conditions and consequences brought about by poverty and just generally, surviving. I enjoyed following Beatriz through her darkest and brightest, and above all, loved that she pursued her dancing passion in spite of it all. The diverse rep (Black Puerto Rican, Haitian) was also great to immerse into, and the approach to characterization was something that I felt like was thoughtful and careful. AND! Can't miss the romance, it was just so sweet and inspiring. I'd read another book by this author.
Beatriz Mendez has always wanted to be a dancer, it was the perfect way to stir her family away from gang life and poverty. But everything changes on her 15th birthday when her gang leader and elder brother Junito dies from his injuries in a turf war. She changes her life and her priorities to take care of her grieving mother and starts working for the gang, Diablos. Can she go back to her dreams and get out of the business to lead the life she always wanted?
Even though this book was fast paced and had a lot of interesting characters, they were not properly expatiated. Even though it felt like a standalone, there were bits were it felt like the history was not very clear but it may have been because it was a sequel. A lot of the dialogues were in Spanish and to a none spanish speaking reader, it was a bit confusing.
The portrayal of drug dealing and the problems faced by Beatriz was written fairly well. The diverse characters and languages proved only better for the story.
There were lots of part i enjoyed and lots of part which felt rough but i would still recommend it to anyone who wants to read a book about raw feelings and loyalty and family.
My Rating : 3/5
Thank you to NetGalley and Charlesbridge Teen for an eARC of this book.
Beatriz has dancing in her blood, but since her brother was shot by a rival gang, she's lost her connection to music. She's struggling to step back into her role in the Diablos, her brother's gang, and to take care of their business at school. She's also trying to care for her mom, who's shut down since her brother's death. When a new boy at school shows an interest in her, he awakens that dream to dance when he convinces her to audition for a part in her favorite TV show, Fame. But there doesn't seem to be room in her life for both dance and the Diablos, although the consequences of either choice might be deadly.
Set in 1984, and a companion to her MG novel LIKE VANESSA, BECOMING BEATRIZ (release date is Sept 17th) tackles issues such as identity, race, drugs, gang involvement, and what a person is willing to risk to pursue their dreams. I enjoyed this fast-moving story and unexpected twists, especially the mystery behind the pictures that Beatriz receives. I would recommend this book, and look forward to hearing feedback from young readers.
This was such a different and beautiful book! Tami Charles takes is in an exotic journey through New Jersey and gang culture, adding diversity and so much in her book.
I haven’t read anything by Tami Charles before and had no idea about the writing style, but it surprised me. The narrative was easy to follow and flowed smoothly, connecting every part easily. At the beginning, though, I had some trouble following the narration and the story. The author used much of native language without translating it and that made me really confused. However, this problem got solved towards the later part of the book.
The author was successful in keeping the suspense and thrill of the story alive, while also navigating through the daily struggles of Beatriz and her family. There was a balance between the dancing passion, and the determination to keep the gang dealings going on.
Nasser and Beatriz's romance felt like it happened way too fast, and it was cliche at some points. However, I did like them together! Adorable they were.
The other side characters were also brilliant and I wish we could have gotten more of them and their back stories.
I loved that the author delved deeper into gang culture and topics that I haven’t seen been usually written about. Violence and blood, homophobic violence, murder etc. It was diverse too, with a black Puerto Rican MC and Haitian love interest, while giving us readers a taste of their cultures too!
It was truly and enjoyable read. Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are totally mine.
Becoming Beatriz is a compelling and accessibly written book that held my attention well.
The main character Beatriz is a young girl growing up in 1984 in an area where everything is aimed against her, and she personally blames herself for some of the challenges she faces.
Opening with action caught my eye and kept me reading, but I do feel as though some aspects of the story could have been explored further, such as her processing her grief (but I’ll do my best not to spoil it!)
Overall, it’s well written and will connect with a wide audience. 4/5 stars from me!
by Tami Charles
Children’s Fiction , Teens & YA
Pub Date 17 Sep 2019
I am reviewing a copy of Becoming Beatriz through Charlesbridge Teen and Netgalley:
Up until Beatriz fifteenth birthday her dream was to get away from the Gang Life and become a professional dancer. Everything changed the day of her quinceañera. She is determined to get herself far from the Gang Life, the gang life that killed her brother Juan.
With her brother dead now Beatriz set of priorities how is she supposed to feel the rhythm of the dance when her brothers gang needs running and her Mom is locked in grief. The last thing she can remember of her old life is dancing with her brother!
Will Beatriz watch her dreams come true, or will they fade away? Find out in Becoming Beatriz!
Five out of five stars!
*Thanks to NetGalley and Charlesbridge Teen for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.* This book reminded me a little of Angie Thomas' YA novel, 'On the Come Up', but set back in the 1980s, when drugs and gang culture are having a huge impact on the streets of New Jersey. The book centres on Beatriz Mendez, who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, but whose days are spent running the illegal drug operation at her high school on behalf of the Diablos gang. Things start to change when the young 'princesa' meets Nasser, a young man completely removed from the local gang culture. Is there home for Beatriz after all? I did enjoy reading the book and learning about a world so far removed from the one in which I grew up. One slight niggle with the book - a number of Spanish phrases were used that were not translated. For an American audience, this might be OK as they would have greater exposure to Spanish. As an Australian, I often had to look these words up. I'm not sure if a glossary is planned for the final publication.
Engaging storyline, great main character, would have a lot of appeal in an urban high school due to gang activity in the book. The cover is not appealing, and my students and I felt it did not represent the story well.
Becoming Beatriz was a wonderful read. It started off a bit slow but once it got going the book pulled you into Beatrizs life and her heartbreak and challenges in life. Becoming Beatriz S was a book I was surprised when I enjoyed it i would definitely read anything by the author again.
This was a very powerful book highlighting the Latino community and all the diversity within it. I enjoyed the '80s setting and reliving my own childhood, gleefully watching the TV show Fame every week. Unlike Beatriz, my dancing dreams were completely in my head!
Watching Beatriz move in a short time from a horrifying event into a confident young lady was quite inspiring. She had to overcome so many levels of racism, language barriers, and cultural differences to make the hard choices so she could have a better life.
This was a great YA book which I strongly recommend to readers 13+. *Thanks to Netgalley and publishers for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
TW: death of a sibling, drug abuse, gang violence, foul language, homophobia, racism, physical abuse
I really loved the diversity in this story. Being a fellow Latina from Puerto Rico, I connected with the main character so fast we could be twins. From describing the issues with our hair to the way to the reactions with everything that happened, I instantly knew I would love Beatriz as a main character. While our decisions about certain things that took place wouldn't be the same, I understand why she did the things she did completely.
From how I learned Spanish, it was understandable for the most part. Some of the stuff was level one and other stuff people might have to look up to translate. There were some conversations between Beatriz and her abuela in Spanish where sometimes it would be translated into English in Beatriz thoughts or remain unclear to a non-Spanish speaker.
One thing that really messed with me was the date in which it took place. I don't know if it's because 1984 is kind of close to 2019 but at the beginning my mind kept thinking this story took place in present time. It was until 45% my mind was like hey it's 1984. Now I don't know if that was my slow self or the book just not making it clear.
The falling action and resolution of the story was kind of predictable in a way that when it all happened, I wasn't surprised. But I still enjoyed it. I think with how much I really liked Beatriz I wanted it to happen that way. So take that with a grain of salt.
I'm just gonna start this off by saying wow, I absolutely LOVED this. There was so much diversity and the way it represented the Latino community just... *chefs kiss* absolutely wonderful. The 80's setting. I absolutely love and adore the 80's so any time I get the chance to indulge in a world where it takes place makes the book all the better. Lately I've been slowly distancing myself into NA rather than YA but I'm so greatful I got to read this before I left left.
Watching Beatriz and the growth she goes through, and the challenging, heartbreaking events she is forced to endure was a true pleasure. I just love strong female characters and this one surely isn't any different.
10/10 recommend this to any young teen/tween and Tami Charles I applaud you.
I adored this, maybe I’m biased because I grew up in the 80s, but there you go, I loved it. Loved the representation and diversity, Beatriz is such a strong character, so relatable and I was rooting for her from the start to the end , an emotional read full of tough issues, well worth the read. Rewarding and inspiring
Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed Becoming Beatriz. I truly loved reading it, and there we're any aspects of it that I didn't enjoy.
I loved the protagonist, Beatriz. She managed to be flawed, yet still likable and relatable. She felt very realistic and I felt as though I could understand her thoughts and motives, which is something that many books fail to do for their protagonist. She was characterized really well, starting off as almost a stereotypical teenage gang member, and then slowly developing as she explored her relationship with dance and her feelings towards Nasser and her brother's gang. Her development felt very similar to that of Katniss' from The Hunger Games.
Nasser, Beatriz's love interest, he was a really fun character to read, and I instantly liked him. Beatriz and Nasser's relationship also developed well and at the perfect pace. I didn't feel as though I was thrown into their relationship, which I feel happens in many heterosexual relationships in the YA genre.
One aspect of Becoming Beatriz that I was actually very impressed by was how the setting and time was built and maintained. In many YA novels that aren't set in a modern time, the setting and time isn't maintained and referenced properly and the novel just ends up feeling like a contemporary novel with the occasional retro references, however for the entirety of Becoming Beatrice, the setting felt like New Jersey in the 1980's.
Overall, Becoming Beatriz was a perfectly executed coming-of-age novel. I completely recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading it.
Becoming Beatriz follows the aftermath of a brutal incident that changes Beatriz's life forever. The protagonist is written as a complicated character. I found myself rooting for her as often as I was angry with the choices she was making. Although I wished that the book didn't portray latinx teens in the drug world, I do believe that her strength of character makes this a worthwhile book.
Reading bilingual latinx characters that throw Spanish in their every day speech is something that I LOVE, and this book had a much larger amount of Spanish than any other book in English that I've ever read. Which was good, of course, but would've been better if the Spanish was more polished. I understand that the main character has lived half of her life in Puerto Rico and half in the US, so I can understand her having grammar errors and stuff, but it's not something that should be expected from her mom or her grandmother, who have only lived in the US for less than ten years of their lives. And it's a thing I understand if the author had the same journey as Beatriz did, having been born in PR and moved to the US at a young age, but it just isn't something that should've happened. There should've been more Hispanic people present that could point out these things.
It's mostly mispellings and incorrect uses of words, definitely not something as bad as the Bicho Raro thing that happened a few years ago. But I don't think the fact that the author is bilingual/Puerto Rican/latina should've outweighted the need to double check.
It's a bit uncomfortable for me to talk about the gang aspect of this book because that's not my experience at all. I come from a really privileged background, and I honestly just haven't been in touch with that stuff, so I can't say if it's truthful or not. At times it felt overwhelming and at times it was extremely underwhelming (like "she can do THAT??? don't they have eyes everywhere???"), but I liked how it showed Beatriz's growth.
The love interest is an absolute ray of sunshine, and I'm glad that he wasn't played off like just some stupid nerd kid. Which he was, but in a good way. Like, he didn't even begin to understand how the gang worked, but that didn't mean he couldn't confront Beatriz about it.
The dancing aspect was PERFECT for the romance, and it has put me in a dance class-romance kick which will most likely end with me watching HSM or some shit AGAIN. I kinda wish we would've gotten more explanation for the moves they were doing, and that the improvs weren't just a paragraph of Beatriz saying she felt the rhythm or something and then jumping to another topic. I was an aerobic dancer for like four years (6-10 lmao but it still counts) and I got into that world so much in those years that I wish the author would've spent more time writing about that. The atmosphere in a dancing competition is no fucking joke and I would've LOVED to see a rivalry with another school or group or something like that.
Oh and by the way, the book is sent in the 1980s, but that aspect is wildly underdeveloped. The date is dropped at some points through newspapers, there's a leotard and there aren't any smartphones or internet but that's basically it. Idk who Debbie Allen is but I guess she was an 80s person, too. Apart from that, it felt like the author just used that time period as an excuse for not having the main characters text each other. I wish I could've felt the 80s vibes a bit more!!
I don't knoe how this review came across so to summarize: I DO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK, SPECIALLY IF YOU'RE LATINX OR JUST KNOW A LOT OF SPANISH
Becoming Beatriz is a YA historical fiction novel set in the 1980s. From the first pages we are introduced to the main character, Beatriz, who dreams of dancing along side her favorite actors in Fame (the TV show) and is hoping for an escape from her daily life. Her family has migrated to America for a better life and new opportunities .Beatriz looks up to her older brother, but when he dies her world falls apart. She steps up to lead the gang, the Diablos, but feels conflicted about which path she should choose: the street life or dance?
When Beatriz meets Nassar, she is charmed by his looks and his vibe. He proves to be good influence on her as they connect over music, dance, and life. Beatriz starts to realize her love for dance again and starts to feel alive. She wants a better life for her family and for herself. Dancing helps her to feel alive again and dance out the pain of the past and grieve over the death of her brother. She slowly transforms into a happier version of herself.
I was so excited to read this book as I enjoyed Charles’ previous novel Like Vanessa. Her lyrical writing pulls the reader into the story and her character are rich and full of depth:
"Long ago, Mami once said, “El universo lo cura todo.” The universe heals all things. But that ain’t entirely true. It’s el ritmo that mends the broken, the timbales taking their time with you, shaking, stirring, shaping you into all that is good, and sometimes not so good too."
The characters felt real and relatable. The overall narrative is laced with s strong commentary about real world issues. I liked that this story is focused on the legendary dancers of Fame. Its iconic and I remember the strong emotions and talents that the cast did when they performed dance routines and songs. The movie is one of my favorites.
Overall, Charles has blown me away with another fantastic novel. This novel was deep, heartbreaking, fill with triumph, and was very real. Like her previous book I liked that Charles includes poetry to help her main characters express their feelings. She has a lyrical writing style which flows throughout the narrative and keeps her readers constantly engaged with the story. Beatriz struggles to find a way to fix the past and make a better life for her family. She pushes herself to want more in her life.
This story can be hard to read at times since it has a heavy subject matter but I felt like it was an important story to tell. Charles discusses intersecting identities (Beatriz is Afro-Latinx), being biracial, drugs, gang violence while also highlighting things from history that I wasn’t aware of. You could tell that the author pulls a lot from her own experiences to create this story. It was a book I didn’t want to put down. I want to read more books from Charles and highly recommend her books!
I wavered between 3 & 4 stars. I didn't particularly like Beatriz in the beginning; I had to force myself to keep reading. I think it would have helped to have more of her backstory before her brother is shot (which happens on the first page of the book). I decided on 4 stars because Charles writes well and tackles important issues: gangs, the immigrant experience, gender identity. A window book for kids who've never been close to gang culture, a mirror book that gives hope for those who face these issues daily.
Review based on an ARC received through NetGalley.
Thank you NetGalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.
The book follows our main character Beatriz as she navigates through Newark and battles with what she is expected to be and what she wishes to be. This story is such a unique take on issues that are not explored enough in YA books. There is a diverse set of characters and Afro-Latinx representation. The story is fast-paced with a romantic sub-plot that I enjoyed. Tami Charles writing was witty and effortlessly pulled me into the story.
A real joy to read, such a great work of fiction that draws on real life aspects and a masterful blend of cultures and diversity within it. Beatriz shows incredible character growth and I felt quite connected to her because of that, it was easy to be immersed in her story though I do think Nasser was probably my favorite character. I loved the familial love and the dreams and aspirations represented through it all.
How could I not think about Step Up when reading that synopsis?
Becoming Beatriz takes a much more serious tone than any of the light-hearted, dancing in the streets Step Up movies, though. Fifteen-year-old Beatriz has forsworn dancing after her older brother is killed in a turf war. She takes it on herself, along with older Diablo gang member DQ, to rebuild her gang to its previous strength to honour her brother.
Throughout the book, I got insight into the negative impact gang life had on Beatriz's life. Her schooling suffered, she had to construct elaborate lies to protect her family from her night activities, and she stressed over who she could trust with simple matters. Beatriz questioned her place in the Diablos even as she remained resolute that she was a Diabla for life. Beatriz's narrative voice was so real, I found myself rationalizing with her when she complained about teachers cutting into her dealing time (a.k.a. dealing weed).
It made no sense. School is not for dealing. But I was literally thinking, "Come on guys, she's busy."
We didn't just get insight on Beatriz's current situation, but backstory on how she and her brother ended up in a gang. I really appreciated this context, not only because it added character development, but because the entire story provided (which I won't spoil for once!) only went to show that people don't choose to join gangs "for fun." (Which comes up in the media sometimes and I'm like, seriously?) Gangs are for survival, for families when blood relatives don't provide protection we need.
The turf war in this book happens between Beatriz's gang, the Latin Diablos, and a Haitian gang, the Macoutes. Beatriz's romantic interest in the book is Haitian and because of the gang tensions, she fears he'll be a danger to her or even that her gang will act out against him. This subplot isn't too deeply explored in the book, and since this book is middle grade I don't think it needed to go much deeper than the theme of cultural acceptance that is heavily promoted towards the book's end. In a YA book, I wouldn't have said no to more exploration on this topic though, since I really enjoyed this aspect of the book!
One portion of Becoming Beatriz that didn't sit well with me was Beatriz's betrayal of Junito (her older brother). (Some may call the following a spoiler but I disagree.) Upon seeing that Junito was engaging in a same-sex relationship—after the family had immigrated to the United States to escape their father who abused them partly because he saw homosexuality as wrong—Beatriz lied to Junito and said his partner was going to maliciously out him to the rest of the gang. As a result, Junito led several gang members to beat up his partner and chase him out of town.
At the end of the book, TJ (Junito's ex-partner now) says he forgives Beatriz and Beatriz realizes what she did was wrong and she was acting out of fear and that day has been a huge shame on her conscience ever since. It's not like this scene happened and was forgotten about. But it did leave me feeling pretty ... *questionable face* ... because of course we have two LGBTQ characters in this book and one is killed and the other is beaten and chased out of town. (To go on to succeed in college, to be fair.)
The rest of the book was really solid though, just iffy on that scene.
A wonderful story about a girl learning to navigate through the trials and tribulations of what others want her to be and what she wants. It also deals with the topic of gang violence and being drawn into that kind of lifestyle; something most authors stray from. Becoming Beatriz is a very realistic and wonderfully written story that I very much enjoyed. I highly recommend it.
I often write about why individuals are not always able to live their lives openly. However, I have just finished a book that made me think about identity in a different way. I was lucky enough to receive an advance reader copy from NetGalley of Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles and published by Charlesbridge Teen. This was a beautifully constructed story of how one teenager became (and accepted) who she wanted to be.
Beatriz immigrated from Puerto Rico to Newark, New Jersey, with her mother and brother in the 1970s when she was a little girl. As readers, we learn more about the reasons behind this departure in short vignettes interspersed throughout the book. Most of the story takes place during 1984, in the months after Beatriz turns fifteen. On her birthday, Beatriz had been dancing with her family, which she loved to do, when gunshots interrupted the celebration. Beatriz and her brother Junito belong to a gang and they know that the shots are being fired by a rival group. Beatriz follows Junito into an alley where she is beaten up and Junito is shot by members of a Haitian gang. He dies of his injuries.
Junito had been the leader of the Diablos gang and, within a few months, Beatriz resumes her role as the coordinator of drug sales within her school. Gang activity is really the only part of Beatriz’s life that seems to be unchanged after Junito’s death. Her mother is no longer able to speak and Beatriz will not allow herself to dance. That is, until she meets Nasser, a Haitian immigrant who, when not dancing, is involved in all sorts of intellectual activities. Nasser reminds Beatriz of who she once wanted to be and gives her the confidence to believe that these were not impossible dreams.
Tami Charles does a remarkable job of communicating the types of struggles that youth in urban areas experienced during the 1980s and, unfortunately, those struggles continue today. Joining a gang is not the only option for teens, but it often seems that way to those who are being encouraged to do so. Gangs give teens an identity. What young people don’t always see in the moment is that gangs also take individual identities away. They are a source of protection, but only if members do what they are told. They offer belonging, but at a cost.
One truly important reminder that Beatriz offered to me was that educators need to find ways to make school relevant to every child. Schools may not always be able to get every child to perform on grade level or to master every concept, but they can be places that inspire kids and young adults to take a different path. After school clubs, the arts, and building relationships with students are some wonderful places to start.
The year is 1984. Beatriz Mendez just turned 15 and loves to dance. But a family drama gets everything mangled up and Beatriz don't really know who she is anymore. Little by little, she's gonna figure it out though.
This as truly a coming of age story and it was beautiful. I cried, laughed, stressed, raged. The ambiance was so perfectly set, the plot kept me on my toes and I never knew what to expect, it was truly a work of art. It also deals with numerous important subjects and was such an important read in some ways. It stayed with me for days and days afterwards and I really cannot wait to read more from this author.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles. I've voluntarily read and reviewed this copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Becoming Beatriz is a story about a girl, Beatriz, who looses her interests in dancing after her brother is killed in a gang-related shooting. After her brother's dead, Beatriz steps into her new role in her brother's gang, thinking that she's all in. After meeting Nasser, Beatriz slowly gets back to her dream of dancing and chooses a new path for her life.
Becoming Beatriz is a powerful story that touches on many themes. Even though the story is short and to-the-point, it tells you all you need to know. I applaud Tami Charles for writing a story that you don't read about often enough. The characters of Beatriz and Nasser felt real and were written with so much dept. A true coming-of-age story.
“We have to learn how to become and how to overcome all at once.”
What a book! This was an incredible book about grief, loss, becoming, overcoming, drugs, gangs, violence, healing, creativity. Told largely through Beatriz’s narrative, but with some bits of her poetry, dreams, and newspaper clippings, Becoming Beatriz focuses on rising from the ashes and learning how to live and forgive.
I just love all of the characters, from Beatriz herself to the smooth-talking Nasser, to the other common faces we see as Beatriz both hides from and takes charge of the streets. They are each just so distinct and enjoyable, and drive the plot forward in their own ways.
Not only that, but I loved the use of language in this book. We have etymology, some roots, English, Spanish, Creole, translation, creation…..it’s so good and wonderful. Refreshing.
Overall, this was a great, fast-paced book that’s bound to make any reader want to take arms and drive their life forward.
Such a good read. I love edgy books like these as I work in a community that has many of these issues. I think it should serve as inspiration for kids 6th grade up, even teens and young adults. What Beatriz experiences personally, I have seen played out on my occasions among the kids I work with. I've seen a few surmount their cultures, neighborhood, ad friends and families to achieve successful lives outside their communities, but not nearly enough. Too many get sucked in and stay. I am always looking for books like these to try and reach the kids. Well-written and addictive story. I think it would make a good book for any population, not just the inner city kids. great story!
In a startling beginning to her novel Becoming Beatrix, Tami Charles introduces the reader to Beatrix when she spots a wishmaker flower in a crack of the sidewalk as she thrusts her body to the ground and presses her face to the pavement. Her wishing will not take away the turf war that leaves her brother Junito dead and her mother mute in grief. Nor will wishing assuage her guilt for what has happened or take away her feeling of responsibility to her brother’s gang.
In 1984 New Jersey, Beatrix almost loses track of her own dreams afterwards of becoming a dancer and meeting her idol Debbie Allen on the set of her TV show Fame. Adding to her torn feelings, Beatrix tries to hide her involvement in the gang from her feisty Abuela, who arrives from Puerto Rico, believing she and her brother are still the “same good kids skipping rope and singing songs back in Aguadilla.”
The ACT-SO arts contest put on by the NAACP restores Beatrix’s desire for dancing and adds complications as she is pulled to care for her mother, to attempt to extricate herself from the gang, and to hone her dancing skills back to a competitive level. Since she is fifteen, there is also romance in the picture, complicated by the fact that the boy is Haitian, like their rival gang.
The book is engaging and readable. The likeable Beatrix gives the reader understanding without ever becoming didactic about how easily one can get caught up in the drug culture and how difficult it is to leave.
Though I haven't read the author's previous book, I don't think it's necessary to enjoy this one; Beatriz's story is compelling enough in its own right. With dance books getting a minor spike in popularity, this book might catch the eye of those who want a gritty but hopeful story a bit more optimistic and less soapy than similar books on shelves.
If your favoured reading material is a compelling tale with a good sprinkling of family, relationships, romance, gang life, loss, hopes and dreams, then Becoming Biatriz by Tami Charles is a must-read for you!
From the get-go there was so much happening in this wonderful YA romance! Biatriz was a superb and engaging protagonist and I enjoyed how she matured throughout the story. She was really likeable and the icing on the cake for me were the parts where Beatriz was dancing.
Her relationship with Nasser was sweet and the couple were good together in spite of their differences. Author, Tami Charles had really worked wonders with most of the characters in this fabulous story and even the less personable ones still had very good parts to play and did not dampen my enthusiasm for this fascinating tale.
I totally appreciated the diversity, its representation by Tami Charles and the realistic portrayal of gang and minority cultures, in general. I loved that the book was set in 1984 which was a special time for me, The plot was great and moved along at a really wicked pace and I was very comfortable with the author’s general writing-style. There were many issues highlighted such as identity, race, drugs, gang involvement and the risks people are willing to take to further their dreams. With some unexpected twists, I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting story, including the mystery surrounding the pictures that Beatriz received.
Overall I think this book was a bit of a hidden gem.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel, at my own request, from Charlesbridge via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was such a beautiful story. I just got wrapped up in these characters. Such a fascinating story.
Becoming Beatriz is a novel about growing into yourself and pursuing the things you love. Our protagonist, Beatriz, is coming to turns with the murder of her older brother, her identity as an Afro-Latina girl living in New Jersey, and her passion to pursue dance. The author does a wonderful job at building up Beatriz' community and the poverty that she and her family live in. I believe there could have been a bit more depth to her grieving process, as this book seemed to change a little mid-way through to put more emphasis on Beatriz' school life. However, I loved the mystery element of the book, and the fact that it's set in the 80s!
I'm excited to see what Tami Charles does next.
Beatriz is a Diabla since age 12. At age 15, she loses her older brother Junito to a rival gang hit. This whole book chronicles her battles within herself to either step up as a Diabla or to step away. This has everything I want in a YA book: romance, hard-hitting topics, great characters that I care for and fantastic writing! I’m giving this book 5 stars for all these reasons. During the reading of this book, I had come to care for Beatriz and her family, at times became scared for her safety. This book also involved a mini mystery too! Although I come from a different background, I can see this books importance as it provides a voice for those in the Afro-Latinx community. It contains “diversity within diversity”.
I think that Becoming Beatriz was so heartbreakingly amazing. Being a Latina woman made this book more realistic for me.
Some of the struggles that happened in this book, I could definitely relate to her. This book definitely made me shed a few tears and I’m so thankful that this book is out in the world.
Thank you to the publisher for picking this book, and thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity.
This was such an impactful book that illustrates the diversity within the Latino community! I really enjoyed the 80s setting. Beatriz overcame so much in such a short time, and I admire her so much.
A solid YA novel that was a good purchase for my library. Students have read and enjoyed it, and I purchased it because of this review copy.
Dance was my life growing up, so this one totally caught my attention - I mean does it get ANY better than getting praise from dancing QUEEN Debbie Allen?! So this title was a must-read for me, and as a former dancer and coach, I would have LOVED to have been able to recommend this to my young adults when I was!
Beatriz was a GREAT character, and I thought her story was relatable for so many - the struggles often faced by families and how incredibly well done each culture was portrayed, truly a diverse voice we could definitely use more of!
I enjoyed this book so much. It's different than Charles's last novel but enjoyed it just the same .