Mendez, Jasminne

Aniana del Mar Jumps In

(2) 4-6 Aniana (Ani) del Mar lives on the Gulf Coast in Galveston, Texas, and the pull of the ocean is in her blood. But she must keep her passion for swimming secret from her devout Dominican mother, who lost a twin brother to a hurricane and deeply fears the water. A loving father, a preschool-age sibling, and a steady best friend help Ani keep her balance--most of the time. But when she begins to suffer pain and swelling and is diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, she questions everything--her gift for swimming, her family relationships, and her own identity. Incorporating some Spanish words and phrases, Mendez weaves together free-verse poetry, concrete poems, haiku, tanka, and even texting and dialogue poems to capture character voice and emotion and propel the story forward. She uses the shape and structure of the poem on the page to add weight to the text, as when "New Ani" offers a list of ways in which the character feels she has changed and has come to accept herself. The story moves quickly as Ani competes in swimming and keeps it secret, then bogs down a bit as she grapples with her illness, but the poetry keeps the plot afloat as we engage with Ani in her struggles.


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