Some of my favorite YA books of all time have featured strong heroines, but I do get a tad frustrated when a romance element is introduced simply because some YA writers believe no book with a female main character is complete without one. “Furia” breaks out of the box with this trope by featuring a female protagonist who still chases her dreams – even with a love interest.
The novel, by Yamile Saied Mendez, is told from Camila’s point of view – a 17-year-old girl from Argentina. She lives somewhat of a double life as a dutiful daughter with good grades and also as a secret futbol (soccer) player who is deemed ‘Furia’ because of her mad skills on the field. Even though her brother is a soccer star too, Camila knows her parents would expressly forbid her playing because she’s a girl. So, her Furia alter ego is kept hidden from the ones she loves the most. When Camila’s childhood best friend, Diego, comes back to their hometown after becoming a famous professional soccer player, she must confront her feelings of wanting to be with Diego but also chasing her dream of becoming a pro player as well.
There were a few storylines that felt a tad unnecessary and detracted from the main focus of the plot (like a fight between Camila and her best friend), so the middle of the novel did drag a tiny bit for me. But the buildup to an important soccer tournament and Camila’s decision of how to ultimately handle her relationship with Diego did bring plenty of excitement. One of the things I loved the most about this book was that Mendez was able to so spectacularly blend in the struggles of women faced around the world (the fight against the patriarchy, violence against women, media bias, etc.) with Camila’s own experiences. The way women are abused and mistreated can happen both on a smaller level and on a much larger scale – Mendez perfectly incorporated all of these oppressions within Camila’s story in a seamless way that felt both meaningful and, at times, hopeful. Plus, the fact that Camila and the author are women of color makes the story all the more necessary.
I think my favorite part (besides the descriptions of Furia’s inspiring passion on the soccer field) was the ending – Mendez was able to tie up all loose ends while never allowing her protagonist to compromise her dreams. I can’t wait for this book to get into the hands of young women – what the world needs is definitely more heroes like Camila/Furia!
*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review*