To Be Maya

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Pub Date 01 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jul 2022

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Hi/Lo title written in verse. 

Maya loves her mother, but she’s also embarrassed by her. Maya’s mother immigrated from Guatemala years before Maya was born. Still, she clings tightly to her roots and traditions. When lacrosse star Josh Williams suddenly expresses interest in Maya, she’s excited to go on a real date. But Maya’s mother isn’t on board. Can Maya make her mother see she’s ready to grow up and have more freedom? And can she do it before Josh loses interest and moves on to someone who isn’t held down by their Guatemalan heritage?

Hi/Lo title written in verse. 

Maya loves her mother, but she’s also embarrassed by her. Maya’s mother immigrated from Guatemala years before Maya was born. Still, she clings tightly to her roots and...

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ISBN 9781978596184
PRICE $25.80 (USD)

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Average rating from 6 members

Featured Reviews

una historia en verso que nos cuenta la vida de maya y su mamá que vino de inmigrante a estados unidos desde guatemala. todo está cambiando en la vida de maya y su mamá no quiere dejarla ir y la protege mucho.

me gustó mucho la historia y se me apachurró el corazón por lo que estaba pasando maya.

thanks netgalley for an arc of this book.

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This is a beautiful coming-of-age story that many teens will be able to resonate with. I love the Latino representation and Maya's strict household is one that I can relate to. The book explores themes of family, friendship, belonging, identity and adolescence. Overall, it's a quick and enjoyable read, though I would have preferred more conflict.

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Maya was named after her Mayan ancestors, and to remind her mother of their Guatemalan roots. Her mother cleans houses for some people she knows, among them her best friend, Gemma, and their classmate, Brian Davis. She never met her father.

Maya is starting her sophomore year of high school, but this year will be different since Gemma will be going to a private school instead. Now it will just be her and their other friend, Andres, on their own.

This is the first of many problems for Maya, who also experiences bullying and racism from classmates and even a teacher, as well as develops a crush on a boy who she describes as "not in the same group" as her. Basically, it could never work; they're from two very different worlds.

She receives a letter from her father's mother out of the blue. At first, she doesn't care enough to read it, and even crumples it up and throws it in the trash. Why is she reaching out now? Turns out that her grandmother wants her to go to Guatemala. She tells her mother she does want to go there someday, but with her instead.

Maya also thinks that her mother is very overprotective of her, not letting her do things like have a cell phone or date. She doesn't understand that her mother is just trying to give her a better life than she had and keep her from possibly making some of the same mistakes and end up heartbroken as well. Her mother assures her that although she may not have a father, her mother chose her, and she will always have her.

As Maya deals with all of this, she forgets to care and ask about how her friends are doing. Andres is struggling with how to tell his mother that he is gay and deal with his crush on Brian Davis, and Gemma is having trouble trying to fit in and make new friends at her new school. When Maya calls Gemma, she doesn't even wait for her to say "hello" first before talking about her life, and not asking about hers. Maya ends up biking to Gemma's house one day, and Gemma tells her that she never calls anymore and when Gemma calls, Maya only talks about her crush, Josh. It's all about Maya. She would have also known about Andres' crush on Brian if she had been paying attention.

In the end, she is able to reconcile everything with her friends and her mother, and learned a lot about herself in the process. (You'll just have to find out what happens with Josh.)

I also learned some interesting facts from this work:

-The marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala.
-The Mayan sacred book is called the Popol Vuh.
-A song called "Luna de Xelajú"

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Well, I don't know – you wait for a young teen read presented in the first-person blank verse of the narrator, and two come along at once. The forthcoming Fly ( was more mature and engaging, but for the target audience the book at hand is perfectly fine. It features Maya, a kid whose mother brought herself to the States from Guatemala and became a single parent as a result. This is one aspect for Maya feeling as if she's completely stuck in a stilted situation – life has made the melting pot of her first years at school much more segregated, and there's even one fewer Latinx pupils in the school now her bestie has moved on, and her mother is just too over-bearing and protective, not allowing her a mobile phone for the secrets it can keep and convey, and trying to keep her from experiencing the heartbreak she once had.

Added to that is her own self-perception, one the bullies kind of reinforce, that she's one of the unpopular, ignorable kids, and unlikely to get a date. But when one is offered, she is caught between upsetting him and her own happiness, and her mother.

If this is reading younger than my other experience of this format, it's partly because there seemed to be clues here to a different element of the plot – a twist that I assumed would always be coming until it most resolutely didn't. She sees herself as akin to some broken ethnic pottery, and the kid in school behind her calls her "Frida Kahlo" – surely this is where the plot tugs our heart strings and uses the advantage of the first person to give us a shockingly last-minute reveal that she uses walking aids or something? But no, the reason she is surprised to be asked out is purely based on colour, which kind of makes this a more simplistic read (and doesn't work as an advert for wherever it's supposed to be set, either).

Normally I don't like books where there is a shortfall between what I assume to be the contents and the reality, but I am happy to forgive this one. Again, the style is completely readable (but I knew now to ignore the interruptions that are the verses' titles), the first person strong and relatable, and the way a short story kind of content becomes a full-sized novel still quite welcome. So there are merits to this however long I sit and think of a different book with extra layers. It still deserves four stars.

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Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑 (4/5)

I enjoy poetry and have read several collections. This is, however, the first time I've read a poem recital of a story. It was quite unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This is a completely new concept to me, and I'm already looking for more!

“𝑺𝒉𝒆 𝒏𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒅 𝒎𝒆 𝑴𝒂𝒚𝒂 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒂𝒚𝒂𝒏 𝒑𝒆𝒐𝒑𝒍𝒆 , 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒔. 𝑩𝒖𝒕 𝑰 𝒂𝒎 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒇𝒊𝒆𝒓𝒄𝒆. 𝑰 𝒂𝒎 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒐𝒓 𝒇𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒓 𝒋𝒂𝒅𝒆. 𝑰 𝒂𝒎 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒂 𝒈𝒊𝒓𝒍. 𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒎𝒚 𝒏𝒂𝒎𝒆 𝒊𝒔 𝒎𝒚 𝒐𝒘𝒏.”

Claudia Seldeen's To Be Maya is a nicely crafted depiction of a young teenager Maya, her inner struggles, and emotions. Maya's thoughts and emotions are beautifully presented by the author at various stages - when her best friend Gemma moves to a different school and it's just Andres now, when she's bullied by other girls at school, when she starts to feel different with Josh and her overprotective mother with a strict household doesn't approve of her thoughts. All of her emotional struggles are vividly depicted, as is her journey toward self-discovery.

I didn't know much about Guatemala, so learning about their history and traditions was fascinating. Every time I came across something new, like the national instrument Marimba, I found myself googling.

“ 𝑰 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒌 𝒐𝒇 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒎𝒚 𝒎𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒕𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝒎𝒆, 𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒆, 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒅𝒊𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒖𝒕𝒊𝒇𝒖𝒍 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒅𝒊𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒔.”

Overall, it was a fantastic experience. Teens, I'm sure, would be able to relate to Maya's emotions and feelings better.

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