Audience: Young Adult (Grade 7 and up)
Review by Julia Stone (she/her)
MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool
Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez was the Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award Winner in 2021. This #ownvoices YA novel focuses on Camila “la Furia” Hassan. Camila is a strong-willed 17-year-old Argentinian girl pursuing her dream of becoming a professional fútbolera despite the barriers as a female in a traditionally male sport.
Camila is an inspiring protagonist. I rooted for her both on and off the soccer field as she navigated her love life, a troubled home life with an abusive father, and her dream of playing professional soccer in the United States.
Fútbol as Freedom
To Camila, fútbol represents happiness and possibility. Fútbol is a way to escape her troubled home life and to become truly independent and free. Méndez writes in an especially poetic way when describing Camila playing fútbol. Her writing style emphasizes the spiritual connection Camila feels with the sport and the fire it lights within her. “La redonda, the ball, obeyed me. She followed me because I treated her well. I cherished her. I treasured her, and most importantly, I let her sing her own song.” Like ‘la redonda,’ Camila sings her own song on the field, embodying her alter ego and team nickname Furia.
Diego, Camila’s childhood friend and love interest, is a famous, professional fútbol player in Italy. Camila is envious of Diego’s life, but she wants “to live it, not watch it from the sidelines.” Unlike the women in her family who sacrificed their lives for their husbands’ dreams, Camila wants to follow her own path.
As Camila pursues her fútbol career, her mother cautions her: “Mamita, you can’t have it all. You’ll see.” Her mother sacrificed her dreams when she married her father, but Camila is determined to break the cycle of “toxic love” and abuse. (“I didn’t want to keep playing a role in this tragedy of errors. I was la Furia, after all. I’d be the one to break the wheel.”) Camila’s desire to ‘have it all’ takes her on a journey that may not be exactly what she envisioned, but she never betrays her heart along the way. I think this novel will inspire other young women to ‘have it all’ by striving for their dreams.
La Furia & Women’s Empowerment
Not only is Camila’s story inspiring to readers, but Camila also inspires a young girl in the novel, an ESL student named Karen. Camila remarks: “Karen’s eyes shone. She had an infection, the hunger. I knew that the only cure was to feed it, and I hoped that I could help Karen like Coach Alicia had helped me.” Camila notices ‘la Furia’ Karen has for reading. Her desire to help Karen represents the cycle of empowerment, which is the opposite of the cycle of abuse. In other words, she wants to empower young girls the same way other women have empowered her.
Camila gives Karen books to read to give her the courage to follow her dreams. She sees a bit of herself in Karen in the way she devours books and hungers for more. The stories Camila read as a child helped to shape her world and showed her that she could do anything. She wishes to pass on these inspirational stories to Karen and feed her hunger for learning.
Méndez illustrates how the cycle of empowerment can be continued not only through interpersonal relationships, but also through the stories we share with one another. Although Camila struggles with domestic abuse and sexism, she keeps trying to follow her dreams. Ultimately, Méndez empowers her readers to persevere and feed “la Furia” inside themselves and others.