Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango

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Newbery Honor middle grade novel Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango (Random House, 2022) delves into the tumultuous inner struggles of Iveliz, a seventh-grader, as she grapples with a myriad of emotional challenges and her mental illness. In this poignant free verse poetry novel, Arango gives Iveliz a realistically confused voice that resonates deeply with me, making it a compelling exploration of Iveliz’s struggles with anxiety, depression, frustration, and the debilitating effects of PTSD. Her mental struggles affect her relationships, and the highly pertinent issues she faces may help other teens and tweens with the growing issues surrounding mental illness.

Iveliz’s Story

Iveliz, pronounced as ee-veh-lease, begins seventh grade determined to portray her emotional stability, hoping to navigate the complexities of her adolescent years while secretly confronting her very real internal demons. But unable to communicate her innermost thoughts to her mother or friends, Iveliz finds herself trapped within the labyrinth of her own emotions. Despite her best intentions, her overwhelm carries the first person narrative and leads to her continued frustration. As a reader, I was immediately caught in what can only be explained in retrospect as an unreliable narrative. Iveliz is so likeable that my own compassion and empathy kept me reading, hoping for her sake that she found a satisfying solution to her mental struggles.

Iveliz’s journey to mental strength is paralleled with that of her elderly grandmother. Mimi moves in as she faces progressing dementia as well as her own struggles post Hurricane Maria, which devastated her homeland of Puerto Rico. As Iveliz comes to recognize Mimi’s disordered mind, she likewise recognizes the disorder in her own mind and seeks ways to put herself back together. The parallels between Iveliz’s internal chaos and Mimi’s fading understanding adds depth to the narrative, giving them a sweet personal connection that will grow stronger as Iveliz regains her mental fortitude.

Iveliz’s Narrative

The author writes a free-flowing narrative in poetic free verse, capturing the sincerity and rawness of Iveliz’s emotions. While this poetic form enhances the emotional impact of the story, it also incorporates Spanish phrases, a stylistic choice that may pose a challenge for non-Spanish speakers. Since I’m familiar with Spanish, for me it gave Iveliz a sincere voice. With Mimi’s Puerto Rican identify a strong part of her, Iveliz’s cultural identity was likewise underscored by her Spanish phrases in the text.

Within this first person narrative, Iveliz’s internal turmoil is palpable as she grapples with a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. She oscillates between sudden anger, anxiety, depression, and the haunting effects of PTSD. The cause of her trauma is shrouded in mystery, gradually unveiled through the pages as the devastating truth of her father’s death in a car accident surfaces. Her sporadic blackouts are often accompanied by violent outbursts, which broadcasts her internal turmoil for all to see, to her shame. Her friendships with others only exist to me, as reader, through her perspective, but it still seemed clear that their care and understanding would give Iveliz healing through her pain.

Iveliz’s Explanations

Iveliz Explains It All offers readers a compelling and relatable glimpse into the complexities of adolescence and the human condition. Iveliz’s narrative voice captures her yearning to break free from her self-imposed shackles, to be kind despite feeling emotionally paralyzed. Her yearning for friendship is a poignant reminder of the reciprocal nature of human relationships. Andrea Beatriz Arango masterfully weaves a narrative that captures the essence of resilience, the importance of connection, and the profound impact of understanding. The universal experience of struggling with guilt and yearning for connection echoes feelings that most tweens and teens feel.

As I followed Iveliz’s journey, I was reminded that, as the saying goes, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” This is a sentiment that beautifully encapsulates the heart of this poignant novel, and I hope young readers who meet Iveliz in these pages will be inspired. For some, that will mean to reach out and help the mentally distressed among us as we show friendship, accept them as they are, and communicate our sincerity. For others, it will mean seeing the need to reach out and ask for help when the mental demons cause overwhelm.

Sad as it may be to recognize, struggling with mental illness and supporting those with mental illness are key components of life today. Iveliz’s story is an essential addition to the middle grade and/or young adult bookshelf.

I rate Iveliz Explains it All Newbery Honor from 2023 as “fantastic” and say “keep it and read it.”



Reviewed on August 8, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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