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Bookbed reviews: ‘Furia’ by Yamile Saied Méndez

by KB Meniado

THE STORY

An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her. Get a copy / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

This Argentine #ownvoices story is pretty special, and I definitely feel lucky to have read this ahead of release date. It ticked off five of the best Fs I usually look for in stories—feminism, family drama, feelings, familiarity, and fassion… I’m kidding, I mean passion for fútbol, of course. I thought it was almost perfect how everything came into place, contributing to the success of the plot rather than overshadowing or over-layering.

The story starts in Rosario, Argentina, and from what my search results has shown me, it looks like a beautiful and progressive city. But anybody coming from a developing place knows better, and so Camila’s dilemma of keeping her La Furia identity a secret wasn’t just some obsolete fantasy. So ‘seeing’ her excel in a traditionally male-dominated sport was a pleasure, something I think a lot of feminist readers would enjoy.

On the other hand, the family dynamics and drama were pretty brutal, which at times were emotionally challenging. But then again, because of context, it shouldn’t really be a foreign concept anymore. There’s poverty, obligation, and expectation, and I thought it was fantastic how the story was able to show the friction and disappointment caused by these things.

What would it be like to have my mom come watch my games, comfort me if I lost, celebrate my victories? Now, that was wishing for the moon, and before I let sadness ruin the sweetness of this moment, I joined my teammates in jumping and singing around our coach.

For him, my whole childhood had been a business investment.

Thankfully, there was a balance established and some early resolutions, in the form of Camila’s mom and through her fútbol team and coach (Alicia! What a strong figure), from which she got great support. It was a subtle yet skillful way to strengthen the example of modern concepts of family, and I wished there was more of it.

What there was more of was actually the teen romance, and while I want to say that I could have done with more La Furia on the filed rather than La Furia with the El Titan, I admit having a love interest in her childhood friend and international star athlete Diego was pivotal in terms of igniting that fútbolera dream in her. That just goes to show that we indeed should want someone in our lives who inspire and make us want to be the best we can be, right? Not to say they didn’t have their downs, but I found the approach to how their relationship grew smart because I could see each of their perspective on life and things and how they handled the problems that came their way.

For you, it’s only black or white. But in my life, things aren’t so simple. I have to compromise. I can’t separate the parts that make me who I am: a daughter, a sister, a captain, your girlfriend. La Furia.”

Now did they end up together? I’d love to spoil you but I’d be taking away your chance to bask in a couple of glorious moments.

And speaking of those kinds of moments, it was equally a treat to have a peak of Argentine culture. Coming from and living in the Philippines, there were a lot of shared experiences, traditions, and even values that I picked up on. I for sure did a lot of location and translation searches as I read. Plus, the cast of characters is also multicultural, spreading the celebration of diversity even wider.

HOWEVER

(Spoiler alert (kind of)! Highlight succeeding text to read.)

While I do think the elements complimented one another and built a remarkable story, I would have just loved to see more of Cami blazing on the field in the earlier parts, and less of her expounded rekindling with Diego. It would have been fun to learn more about the sport.

tl;dr

Fútbol, feminism, family, and what it means to fight for your dreams, Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez is a special coming-of-age book with important life lessons. ☁️

Special thanks to Algonquin Books and Algonquin Young Readers for the ARC and media assets. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version (but this review reflects honest thoughts). Furia is now available.

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