[Merci Suarez Can’t Dance & Merci Suarez Plays it Cool]: A Double Review

Hi y’all!

Hope your 2023 is starting out well and you are feeling excited at the beginning of a new year.

Today I am excited to share a double review of the 2nd and 3rd books in the Merci Suarez trilogy: Merci Suarez Can’t Dance and Merci Suarez Plays it Cool. I absolutely love this series and can’t say enjoy good things about Merci and her stories. Check out my review of book one: Merci Suarez Changes Gears.

These sequels were such fun additions to Merci’s story! I really enjoyed them! Book two was a little slow to get into but soon I was totally invested in the latest Merci story. I absolutely loved book three which I was lucky to read soon after it was published. That said, this whole series is fantastic!

Book Summaries: “Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she’s got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be a smart as her brother, Roli. She’s been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she’s tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball.

One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can’t dance–not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else. Dancing makes her almost as queasy as love does, especially now that Tía Inés, her merengue-teaching aunt, has a new man in her life. Unfortunately, Merci can’t seem to avoid love or dance for very long. She used to talk about everything with her grandfather, Lolo, but with his Alzheimer’s getting worse each day, whom can she trust to help her make sense of all the new things happening in her life? The Suárez family is back in a touching, funny story about growing up and discovering love’s many forms, including how we learn to love and believe in ourselves.

For Merci Suárez, eighth grade means a new haircut, nighttime football games, and an out-of-town overnight field trip. At home, it means more chores and keeping an eye on Lolo as his health worsens. It’s a year filled with more responsibility and independence, but also with opportunities to reinvent herself. Merci has always been fine with not being one of the popular kids like Avery Sanders, who will probably be the soccer captain and is always traveling to fun places and buying new clothes. But then Avery starts talking to Merci more, and not just as a teammate. Does this mean they’re friends? Merci wants to play it cool, but with Edna always in her business, it’s only a matter of time before Merci has to decide where her loyalty stands. Whether Merci is facing school drama or changing family dynamics, readers will empathize as she discovers who she can count on—and what can change in an instant—in Meg Medina’s heartfelt conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Newbery Medal–winning novel.

Meg Medina has such a talent for narrating the middle school experience. She so clearly creates situations with friends, teachers, boys and girls, siblings, and parents that feel real. She really has a knack for details that bring people together. This story isn’t overly exciting or far fetched. It’s about an average middle schooler navigating life, learning how to interact with enemies, how to admit to doing something wrong, how to support family in all the changes of life, how to be a good friend. Merci’s story is told with heart and love without preaching too much about big issues. I love her story! The way Medina characterizes Avery and the way she treats people or how Edna treats people or even Merci are full of subtle details that really create a meaningful story. The way these friends interact felt so realistic and relatable for readers this age. I thought it was especially interesting when Merci realizes that Avery isn’t a friend she can always count on. But other friends and family members are deeply loyal to those they love. Important lessons!

The characters are so dynamic and complex in these books. Merci is relatable and an authentic middle school voice. I felt like the way she thinks, talks, and acts were so relatable to a late middle grade audience. From her thoughts on boys, to telling the truth to navigating changes in friendships, Merci is so real! There is a cast of great characters surrounding Merci. Loved seeing her interact with Wilson and their friendship in those awkward middle school years. Also loved the changing dynamics with friends Lena and Hannah. It’s a real issue to figure out how to be friends with people as your interests change and even when you hurt each other. That felt very real to me. Also loved Merci’s relationships with her family especially her Tia in this one. Great to see Tia Ines find success with her dance studio and how the family all comes together to support her. I absolutely love Merci’s grandfather Lolo and their special moments in these books. Tears were shed and I thought the family dynamics are really beautifully described. I felt seen with my own experiences with an aging grandparent as Merci tries to find new ways to connect with him when his old self is gone.

These novels offer great discussion of important ideas like telling the truth and accepting consequences. I appreciate how Merci navigates a lot of relatable situations for kids in middle school, high school and beyond– trying to fit in, trying out for a sports team, how to live with grief, changing friendships, and how to be a good friend. What is a good friend and how do you make amends when you are not a good friend? Are enemies just bad people or can you understand them better? If my family disagrees or goes through a hard time, does that make us broken or bad? Loved these compelling questions and life lessons! I think what makes Merci feel so timeless is how relatable her stories are. She faces challenges and disappoints that we all do. And I appreciated the lessons she learned along the way.

Overall, a fantastic conclusion to the series. I absolutely loved getting more from Merci and will miss her and her family!


What are some of your favorite middle grade series?
Any Merci fans out there? What do you love about these books?

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