El mensaje

Book Title El mensaje
(The message)
Author(s) A.C. Quintero
Illustrator(s) Alan Ng
Other Contributors
Published by Self published
Genre Realistic Fiction; Comedy
Publication date 2017
#Ownvoices YES
From the author/publisher’s website
Level 2

Total Word Count

Illustrations                    YES 
Glossary                          YES  
Guiding Questions       NO  
Context                            NO  

Races, Ethnicities, and Nationalities
Latinx North Americans

Languages spoken

Sex and Genders
Male (main character)

*The story focuses on teenagers, with adult characters on the periphery.

Social classes
Middle Class
*There is little indication of social class, but we assume that the characters are Middle Class because they have access to smart phones & Jorge, the Argentine student is able to afford to travel to North America.

Sexual Orientation



Family Structures

Body Type
*Based on illustrations

From the author/publisher’s website 

Adán’s life is turned upside down when he gets an unexpected and heart-wrenching text message from a friend. It is a text about his beloved girlfriend, and it’s not pretty. At first, Adán does not think much of the text, as he knows students love to spread rumors and gossip. He would rather focus on his upcoming test on the capitals of Spanish-speaking countries, than indulge in petty high school drama. But as he considers the last few days talking to Fiona, a startling picture starts to emerge. Why has she been incredibly secretive and avoiding him like the plague? Adán tries to keep his cool. So, instead of going into full panic mode, he hatches a plan. He may be risking everything to uncover the truth, but he knows that the truth will set him free. Will it be worth it?

To what extent do the illustrations present positive and thoughtful representations of identities?

The illustrations portray a variety of skin tones and hair-types. The character who is considered the most romantic/attractive, and capable of “stealing” girlfriends, is depicted as a light-skinned and light-haired Argentine. 

We understand identities are complex and no single story represents the spectrum of identity-based experiences. Also, a text may address a stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization without relying on it.

Does any stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization affect any positive and thoughtful representations of identities in the text?
1. Characters of diverse backgrounds are represented stereotypically.
2. Female characters aren’t given rules that enable them to be heard
This section is for teachers who are working towards sourcing more texts within the four domains of anti-bias education. We are excited about reading all books and we understand that not all books are written for this specific purpose. 

Does this text work toward goals within any of the four domains of anti-bias education as defined by Teaching Tolerance
Identity: Promote a healthy self-concept and exploration of identity

Adán is a high school student in a setting that seems North American (although this is not specified).  He notices that his girlfriend, Fiona, is spending a lot of time with her new tutor, Argentine student Jorge. He learns from his classmate, Jaime, that Jorge “stole” Jaime’s girlfriend after becoming her tutor. Adán is very concerned that Jorge will “steal” Fiona as well. Adán’s concern increases throughout the book as he gathers evidence for his assumptions, and the book indicates expressly that Adán has some paranoiac tendencies. At the end of the book, Adán discovers that, in actuality, Jorge and Fiona were planning a surprise party for him. He discovers that the evidence, which he assumed pointed to a conclusion of “girlfriend-stealing”, actually pointed to his premature conclusions which were shaped by his insecurities. Readers discover, along with Adán, that evidence can have multiple interpretations and that one’s assumptions need to be questioned.

llustrations represent a variety of skin tones and hair types. The protagonist, who is featured on the cover, has darker skin and curly dark hair. 

The message about questioning one’s assumptions is a helpful take-away for readers. A central theme for discussion with students involves the importance of not rushing to conclusions or making rash decisions. 

The book depicts the development of character in the protagonist, Adán, in that he progresses from a somewhat controlling and paranoiac character, especially in relation to his girlfriend, Fiona (“Él va a sospechar algo si no estudio con él después de las clases… él es muy paranoico” / “He is going to suspect something if I don’t study with him after school… he is very paranoid” [36]), to someone who learns that these attitudes lead him into rash and irrevocable decisions (“Quiero ir a otro colegio…, es que tengo muchos problemas y ya no puedo más” / “I want to go to another school… I have a lot of problems and I can’t do this anymore” [51]) which he regrets.

The book also depicts Adán’s and his male classmates’ assumptions about an Argentine student challenged in the end of the story when they see that the Argentine student, Jorge, has kind intentions instead of the intentions they had previously assumed. In the end of the story, a teacher comments to Adán, “Tu novia y tu amigo Jorge planearon una fiesta excelente”  / “Your girlfriend and your friend Jorge planned an excellent party” (57). In response to realizing that Fiona and Jorge were not secretly dating but instead were planning a surprise party for him, Adán confesses to Fiona, “pensé que había algo entre Jorge y tú… él tiene reputación de robarle las novias a los chicos” / “I thought there was something going on between you and Jorge… he has the reputation of robbing girlfriends from boys” (58).  As Adán realizes that his impressions were mistaken, readers are thus implicitly invited to reconsider the bases on which they form negative opinions of others.

The storyline is centered around heterosexual romantic relationships. The only relationships that are made evident in the storyline are heterosexual.

The conflict hinges on the assumption of the male characters that girlfriends can be “stolen” with little voice or agency of their own; this assumption remains unchallenged through the end of the book, as we see in the end of the book that Jorge is dating a girl that a classmate feels was “stolen” from him. This portrayal perpetuates the objectification of women because the female characters don’t have agency or voice in the situation and are treated as something that could be owned or stolen by the male characters.   

The one non-North American character, Jorge, is from Argentina and is depicted as a threat by being a serial “girlfriend-stealer.” The North American characters discuss Jorge: “¡Ese Jorge es una serpiente! ¡Es un robanovias!” (This Jorge is a snake. He is a girlfriend-stealer.) (p. 10); “Jorge ayuda a las chicas y después ellas se convierten en sus novias… Él es tutor porque quiere «ayudar» a las chicas. Y a todas las chicas les gusta su acento argentino” (Jorge helps girls and afterwards they become his girlfriend… He is a tutor because he wants to “help” girls. And all the girls love his Argentinian accent) (p. 10). Even in the closing paragraph of the story, there is an inference that the protagonist, Adán, still sees Jorge as a threat to his relationship with his girlfriend.

Although the book indicates that classmates respond to Jorge’s Argentine accent–sometimes with admiration and sometimes with teasing–the book rarely depicts Jorge speaking in the “vos” format which is omnipresent among Argentines, but instead usually shows him speaking in the “tú” format. This aspect seems inauthentic in its representation of Argentine speech. The book does not offer any explanation to readers about Argentine geolects or the author’s choice of “tú” for Jorge’s speech.

The story also portrays Jorge as someone who intends to cheat on a geography test (“Tengo que copiar de los estudiantes más inteligentes” (I have to copy from more intelligent students) p.30), although it also shows cheating as common among the students in general. Jorge plans to cheat from North American classmates because he has not yet memorized the capitals of the countries of South America. This may raise questions for readers about the authenticity of the portrayal of Jorge’s South American identity, as well as concerns that he is portrayed as less intelligent in geography.

The text of the author’s acknowledgements does not explicitly indicate consultation with Argentines in the creation of the book and, as a result, the reader is not sure of the extent to which Argentine cultural insiders have participated in or vetted the representation of their group. It would be interesting to know how Argentines might assess the portrayal of Jorge.

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