What worked for me--
The love story itself:
There were times when the reality of Alma and Evan's situation was so real, it brought tears to my eyes. These star-crossed lovers have a genuine and finely written romance. I found myself rooting for Evan and wanting him to be better for her.
Alma's character deals with a lot of pressure. She's an incredible student, and way beyond her class level. Her advocate, Mrs. King, tries her hardest to get Alma scholarships. Alma is a realist. She knows that without a social security number, it doesn't matter how good her grades are. Alma's journey starts at "model immigrant" to realist. She questions everything she's done. She questions the hypocrisy that calls for immigrants to follow the rules without room for error, while white citizens get the luxury of breaking the law and getting by on privilege. This is not to say that anyone should be allowed to be unlawful. But the racial profiling and the persecution that the immigrant community faces is unjust. Marie Marquardt doesn't shy away from this.
Being a Mexican girl:
Marquardt, an advocate for immigrants, writes honestly about Mexican girls. Alma isn't a trope, she's a full-fledged character with complex wants and needs. The other Latinas in Alma's circle, the cousins and friends, get the same treatment.
Immigration and undocumented people:
Marie Marquardt gives an informative look at ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) without being didactic. ICE has been on the news lately, and the political climate of the US is reflected in this book.
While Evan is a bit of a dream himself, it is nice to imagine that a boy like this exists. He's compassionate, sweet, understanding, and wants to immerse himself in Alma's culture. He's got moments where his thoughts turn more sexual, but that's believable and necessary when writing an 18-year-old boy. Evan confronts his privilege, even though he doesn't always accept it. He's wealthy, connected, and has never wanted for something in his life. He's naive when it comes to racial prejudices. He tries to rationalize the behavior of his friends, even when he's angry over it.
There are times when Evan gets so angry at the racist things his friends say that he stays quiet. His walls are breaking, and so is the comfortable world he knew. One moment stuck in my mind. Alma is very blunt about her life and circumstance. She has no qualms calling out Evan's white privilege. He would get frustrated and ask her "Why do you talk like that?" She wasn't afraid to make him uncomfortable. When writing about this subject, it's important to feel uncomfortable because that's how people learn.
What left me wanting--
There was a date rape subplot that should have been addressed with more urgency. I think the resolution was satisfactory, but it is a sensitive subject.
DREAM THINGS TRUE is a heart wrenching and realistic love story that challenges the way we look at immigration. Alma and Evan are characters the reader wants to root for.