From #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz (The Isle of the Lost, Return to the Isle of the Lost) comes the launch title of Seventeen Fiction from Harlequin Teen, Something in Between. Don't miss this timely and powerful novel that Seventeen Magazine editor-in-chief Michelle Tan says "has everything—a strong heroine, important issues and a really cute crush. I'm obsessed—and you will be too," and Rachel Cohn, the NYT bestselling co-author of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, calls "a great read!" 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.
Something in BetweenFeatured
In her junior year of high school, Jasmine finds out that she and her family are undocumented, and that all of the things she's been working towards are not available to her because of her status. It's a scary situation, and one that hasn't really been explored in YA fiction. What can teens do if they find out they've been undocumented all along? What kind of future could they have?
de la Cruz centers Jasmine as a perfect student, with a loving Filipino family, and I was delighted to see them. While I didn't need a lot of the explanations and set-up explaining Filipino customs and culture, I appreciated having them there for teen readers who might not as familiar. Jasmine was an earnest character, almost painfully so, and her optimism comes through quite easily on the page. She does read a bit younger than 17, with interjections and dialogue that can be jarring for the reader.
The plot itself--how will Jas keep her family from getting deported in the face of a new law?--is thin, and not as detailed as I would have liked. It doesn't need to be dense paragraphs of text explaining the law, but the sense of urgency never leaps off the page, and I never really worried about Jasmine and her family.
Everything comes a little too easily for Jas for it to be believable, though de la Cruz does provide some context for that. She's a model minority of a character: an excellent student, involved in extracurriculars, well-liked, always honest, always deferential to authority. None of these things are bad, and none of these things make Jas a bad character. But these qualities are used as justification for people's treatment of her, because how can a girl so perfectly perfect ever be deported? It's not a fair judgment of undocumented immigrants, as it stacks the cards against those who would still benefit from stability and a place in life, even if their pasts aren't quite as squeaky clean as Jasmine's.
The romance is entwined with Jasmine's predicament, and doesn't feel very real or engaging, again because of how easy everything works out. Stakes are raised to a minimum, and handled without too much fuss. Perhaps Something in Between is the perfect title for this book, as it doesn't manage to commit to the harsh realities of undocumented immigrants, insisting instead on boundless optimism.
This book brought back memories I had as a bilingual teacher in a school district close to East LA during the 90s. During the English Only movement, I heard more than a few of my students fearing that the Migra-immigration police- would come and send them back to Mexico. Cruz shows the fear that an undocumented teen has when she finds out she'd not a citizen.
Jasmine studies hard and is a National Scholar. When she finds out she's won that prestigious award, her parents tell her the 'truth'. The disbelief turns to anger and then embarrassment. Cruz nails this too. The current political climate stand against immigrants only fuels the fear an undocumented citizen faces daily. **Kuddos to Cruz for also using the word undocumented and not 'illegal' alien. I personally hate that term as no-one is from a different planet.
The romance between Jasmine and Royce shows the conflict she feels in sharing her 'secret' especially when his father is behind a bill to deport immigrants. There's lots of feels that go on between these two. She struggles with being faithful to her family that faces deportation if it gets out that they aren't in the country legally with her feelings toward Royce. I liked how readers go on a journey with these two as they come to terms with their feelings.
At the end of the book is a note on undocumented minors and the 'Dream Act'. I feel it's so important to give these children and teens a name and voice. Cruz mentions how Jasmine's plight was very similar to her own when she was a teen. This adds to the authenticity of the story.
A teen's struggle and fear with the recent news of being undocumented told in a real, authentic voice. I highly recommend this book to be included in libraries and high schools as it shows the human side of immigration.
2. Authentic voice