Happy Thursday, guys!
Something in Between doesn't come out for another week, but I wanted to share my review early, since I loved this book.
It's the perfect touch of romantic comedy intermixed with a far more serious character journey, and it's absolutely one of my favorite books for the fall.
Expected publication: October 4th 2016 by Harlequin Teen
Format read: ARC via publisher
Jasmine de los Santos has always done what's expected of her. Pretty and popular, she's studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.
And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation
For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she's trying to make sense of her new world, it's turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she's not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.
In Something in Between, Melissa de La Cruz introduces readers to Jasmine, an accomplished high school senior living in Southern California. While Jasmine has dreams of attending elite colleges, the discovery that she’s an undocumented immigrant seems like it’s about to derail that plan…
I've read a number of YA books discussing the odyssey of undocumented immigrants over the years, and I was struck by just how relatable Jasmine's journey felt. While I'm sure part of it could be attributed to the fact that Jasmine - like me! - is from Southern California (more or less), the majority of the relatability was due to the fact that de la Cruz has done a remarkable job of charting and humanizing a disorientating, complicated journey.
Because Jasmine makes that discovery that she's an undocumented immigrant in the worst possible way: she's about to accept a prestigious scholarship, but has to decline because it would shine too much attention to her status. By not accepting the scholarship, Jasmine is also opening the door to the idea that she may not even have a future in this country, as well.
While the stakes for Jasmine's journey didn't necessarily felt as urgent as Alma's in Dream Things True, De la Cruz does a wonderful job of reiterating to the reader that Jasmine's core journey isn't just that of an undocumented immigrant. Though it's very much occupying the bulk of her thoughts, Jasmine still has very normal teenaged struggles, including family drama, romance issues and friendship struggles.
And that's really the crux of this book. It's a reminder that even though there are many who would like the undocumented immigrant issue to become a broad, faceless issue where those who are caught up in the struggle are very much viewed as the other, there actually is a face, a story and a dream behind each of these stories. De la Cruz is essentially reminding us the importance of not othering these individuals, a reminder that is sure to resonate deeply with all readers.
My one issue with the book though, was with the romance. While Royce was undoubtedly charming, the entire situation just felt a tad too convenient, given the timing and the situation. Because of course, Royce's father was a politician who had the capacity to help Jasmine's situation. It's a bit clichéd, but does help drive a few important points forward.
*Minor spoilers ahead*
While I'll acknowledge that Jasmine's accomplishments don't necessarily merit the consideration that normally comes with the sponsorship for a private bill, I do absolutely understand why de la Cruz chose to have Jasmine have access to an easier, happier ending.
There are too many who view undocumented immigrants as something to be feared and/or a topic of strong debate, and de la Cruz shows readers that more often than not, those who are undocumented and seeking access to citizenship only want the same quality of life that many of us take for granted. It's a bit of a broad lesson, but a much appreciated one.
Jasmine’s journey from being a typical teen, to someone who learns what it takes to advocate for her rights in an untenable situation, is a thoughtful and humbling journey. Her struggles to reconcile her family's decisions, along with her own advocacy for her future. shines an optimistic light on an experience that so many peers are experiencing in the real world.
All in all, this is a book that is sure to provoke many significant discussions amongst readers, especially when readers learn about de la Cruz's own background. Highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publishers Weekly and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of novels for readers of all ages, including The Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost. Her books have topped the USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and have been published in more than twenty countries. Today she lives in Los Angeles and Palm Springs with her husband and daughter.