Looking for your next must-read contemporary YA? Lilliam Rivera’s debut The Education of Margot Sanchez follows Margot in a coming-of-age story and mixes it with dysfunctional family dynamics, gentrification and the age-old bit of teenage angst and rebellion.
In The Education of Margot Sanchez, Margot finds herself serving out punishment for stealing her father’s credit card by working at her parents’ grocery store. And if that’s not icing on the cake of what could’ve been an amazing summer, she gets the added treat of dealing with family drama and Moises, a boy from her neighborhood. With her cultivated prep school image slipping away, she’s willing to do anything to escape her punishment.
The Education of Margot Sanchez is your debut YA novel. Congrats! What are you most excited about with its release?
Thank you! I really can’t wait is to see young people hold the book. Books have always played such an important role in my life. When I was young, I found sanctuary in libraries and read everything I can get my hands on. I would never had dreamt that I would be publishing a young adult novel. I can’t wait to meet young readers and share Margot Sanchez with them.
Your novel is an intersection of a lot of issues – there’s the teenage pressure to fit in and privilege, family expectations and also sexism, just to name a few. But just these few things are a lot for anyone to handle. How do all of these things play into Margot and her growth and characterization throughout the novel?
I feel that young people deal with multiple issues in their daily lives. There is no real sense of one-issue that seems to magically be fixed, as in movies or television shows. You are dealing with racism one second and the boy you like looking at you and your father enforcing a curfew. For Margot, she has lived a somewhat sheltered, spoiled life where she’s been blind to the way things really run. For a summer, she is forced to wake up and see her reality and the reality that surrounds her family. It’s not easy but it’s a part of growing up, that moment when you can’t hide behind your parents.
Two central themes in YA novels are staying true to yourself and overcoming obstacles to find yourself. Which would you say your novel is? Or is it a little bit of both and why?
My book really tackles a little of both. Margot is trying to find her voice that isn’t shaped by what her parents want or what her friends might think. She has to overcome her family’s expectations and find her own footing.
What were your main influences and/or inspirations when writing your novel?
I really kept thinking of the young adult authors that I love such as Matt de la Peña, Nova Ren Suma, Sonia Manzano. Their work continues to inspire me.
On your blog you said that you “write to try to make sense of what is happening.” What would you say to readers and writers who are scared of what the current president and what his administration seem to stand for?
I join them in being scared as well. Writing is one of the most radical, revolutionary tools we have. If you look back in history, journalists and writers are the first to be jailed and silenced. Even having your voice heard on twitter is adding your voice to the resistance. We need to use whatever tools we are gifted with to speak to those who are voiceless.
Is there anything you hope readers take away from The Education of Margot Sanchez?
I hope that they take away that there is no set way of growing up. The path varies and can be messy and confusing. And that is okay.
After your novel releases, what’s up next for you? Another novel?
I’ll be visiting different cities helping to get the book to as many young people. There’s a lot of book festivals to attend! I do have another young adult book that I just submitted to my editor at Simon & Schuster and I will probably be working on that.
Anything else you would like readers to know?
You can always catch me on Twitter @lilliamr. Thanks for having me!