Today’s post is about FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez. Thank you so much to the publisher Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with an Advanced Readers Copy in exchanged for an honest review. This post is in partnership with blog tour currently happening for FURIA. All opinions shared are my own. FURIA is out now!
Camila Hassan, a powerful and talented fútbol player in Argentina, is seventeen and living a double life. At home, she tries to stay within the narrow expectations of a “good girl” that her mother has for her, while abiding by her father’s mood swings and surging temper and living in the shadows of her superstar fútbol brother Pablo. Outside of her home, she’s an incredible fútbol player whose teams has just qualified for what could be a life-changing tournament. The only problem? Camila’s parents don’t know she plays fútbol, and she needs their permission to continue on to the tournament. To top it all off, Camila’s first love Diego is back in town after playing fútbol abroad, and Camila’s determined not to let him distract her from her goals. Camila has big dreams and the talent to back it, but she needs the freedom to fly first before she can take off.
WHAT I LIKED
The character of Camila is strongly crafted, and all of her decisions make sense and match up with the character that Méndez spends the book crafting for us. Camila is resolute in her goals, and I really appreciated how she didn’t let her loyalty to her family become an obstacle to her greater happiness. This is something that is addressed in the book several times, specifically in conversations with her father and brother (Pablo). If you’re looking for a book where the main character goes on some self-discovery journey that results in her sacrificing herself and her happiness for a family that doesn’t treat her well or appreciate her, then keep it moving. However, if you’re looking for a book about a young woman who has dreams and aspirations in spite of her family’s restricting ideas of what a young woman can be or should be, then this is the book for you.
Within this rock solid portrayal of Camila’s character, we also have a supremely complex and complicated mother-daughter relationship. I was a bit surprised at the route that Camila’s relationship with her mother takes. I don’t want to say too much about that because I don’t want to give anything away, but just know that it is a pretty satisfying (albeit difficult) journey they go on together. With Camila’s character development, we also see a journey taking place in Mama. At first, it easy to paint Mama as a villain in this book who wants to limit what her daughter can do. As the book continues, we quickly find out that everything Mama does is a product of everything she’s been through, especially with her relationship to Papa. Their relationship is so taut, mostly because Camila understands most of her mother’s perspectives, but she still believes (perhaps rightfully so) that her destiny cannot and will not be the same as her mother’s. It is this determination that fuels a lot of Camila’s decisions, in fact.
Along with this, there’s a deep appreciation and highlighting of the varying types of female relationships and their complexities. There is a strong best friendship between Camila and Roxana that is tested throughout the book. The camaraderie between Camila and her teammates isn’t a central part of the novel, but definitely has a presence. The biggest relationship we explore besides Camila’s relationship with her mother and Diego, is her relationship with Coach Alicia. I loved how Coach Alicia acted as a tough older-sister figure for the young ladies on the team. She was stern, pushed them far, but was also extremely compassionate and empathetic to the fact that they had other obligations and life circumstances. Coach Alicia was a refreshing take on the time-old hard-ass team coach stereotype we usually get, especially for women’s sports.
Furia deals heavily with the expectations of girls and girlhood, and it does not shy away from the misogyny and sexism girls deal with on a regular basis. We see this constantly in how Camila is treated and interacts with her family at home. Even her older brother Pablo, who knows about her secret love of fútbol and seems to care about her love of the sport, has moments where he feeds into the dangerous narrative about “those types of girls” who “endanger” themselves. Pablo having a mother and a sister mean nothing in the face of pervasion misogyny in society that tells us that girls and women are responsible for not getting themselves raped, kidnapped, and killed. Even though I wished we had gotten deeper character development, I found Pablo to be an interesting use of a character, as if Méndez wanted to show the varying levels of a sexist that one can be. On the one hand, we have Camila’s father, whose sexism and misogyny rolls off of him in the way that he addresses their mother, talks down to Camila, comments on Pablo’s relationship with his girlfriend, and discusses girls and women in general. On the other hand, we have Pablo, whose ingrained misogyny is more subtle and obviously the product of the society he grew up in. And on a third, mythical hand, we have Camila’s love interest Diego…
I found Diego’s character to be a breath of fresh air. There was no deeply misogynistic boy with good intentions who has to realize Camila is a human being or that he has a mother to treat her with respect. There was no torturous journey of love that turned slightly toxic. And there was no compromising. Diego’s love for Camila was all-consuming for him, and he always made sure that she knew he cared deeply for her. In Diego, we saw a young man who was conditioned to see women has needing protection, but not in a stifling manner. In Diego, we saw a young man who was not afraid to love unconditionally and out loud and proudly. But also in Diego…we saw how even the Nice Guy can have some flaws that stem from sexism and misogyny. Diego is our Knight In Shining Armor, which is nice until you realize that your Knight wants you to abandon your castle instead of staying and fighting for it. Diego, at first, doesn’t realize the value Camila finds in her home and her own dreams, and that can be heartbreaking to witness. Camila’s relationship with Diego wasn’t toxic, but it also wasn’t perfect, and that’s why I loved it. With a backdrop of Camila witnessing the toxic relationship between her own parents, it was easy for her to get swept up in the adoration that Diego pours out for her. In the back of her head, though, she is constantly aware of her own dreams and aspirations, and Camila goes through the entire book trying to figure out exactly how her relationship with Diego fits in with what she wants for herself.
WHAT COULD’VE BEEN BETTER
While I enjoyed the pacing for the majority of the book, I did find that the ending was a bit rushed. A lot of crucial moments seemed to speed by, and we get a lot of conclusions quite quickly. I was interested in seeing what ends up happening with her brother Pablo, as I think he was an interesting character who definitely had more potential.
There’s also a conflict between Camila and her best friend Roxana that I wish had been fleshed out and discussed. There’s obviously themes of jealousy and secrecy, especially between Camila and Roxana in relation to Diego, and I think that definitely would have been interesting to dive deeper into. I also wish we had gotten more of Roxana in general, as she was such a spunky character that definitely added complexity to the scenes she was in.
Furia is a solid YA Contemporary that explores a lot of important themes, including girlhood, the expectations of young women, sexism, and love and modern-day relationships. It is definitely a Feminist read, and I’m looking forward to adding it to my collection. I will also definitely reread it someday and would read more from this author. I ended up giving Furia 4/5 stars.
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