Mateo Garcia and his younger sister, Sophie, have been taught to fear one word for as long as they can remember: deportation. Over the past few years, however, the fear that their undocumented immigrant parents could be sent back to Mexico has started to fade. Ma and Pa have been in the United States for so long, they have American-born children, and they're hard workers and good neighbors. When Mateo returns from school one day to find that his parents have been taken by ICE, he realizes that his family's worst nightmare has become a reality. With his parents' fate and his own future hanging in the balance, Mateo must figure out who he is and what he is capable of, even as he's forced to question what it means to be an American.
Daniel Aleman's Indivisible is a remarkable story—both powerful in its explorations of immigration in America and deeply intimate in its portrait of a teen boy driven by his fierce, protective love for his parents and his sister.
One day when working at the bodega, ICE agents show up looking for his father. Mateo knows his parents are undocumented, and this has always been a fear in the back of his mind - even though they have been in the US since they were 21 (his mother) and 17 (his father). When they leave and the family doesn't see them again for a week, they feel like they are in the clear. However, after Mateo comes home from school one day, he finds his parents gone, detained by ICE in separate facilities.
Suddenly, Mateo has to take care of his little sister, Sophie, who is also scared and upset, and think of the bodega while also worrying about what he can do to help his parents fight their case to stay in the US - the place where they have become part of the fabric of the country.
What I loved: This book was absolutely riveting and completely pulled me into Mateo's story. The writing pulls the reader in, and it was definitely a very emotional read. I appreciate the way we are shown the pervasive fear and feeling of being different that Mateo faces when interacting with his classmates and close friends. The immigration system and mechanisms for undocumented immigrants can be really terrible, and the book exposes these difficulties by providing a (fictional) face for the stories that might be heard on the news.
I absolutely cried while reading this book - the hopelessness and the challenges of trying to fight the system and then to also decide how to divide the family and how much to lean on others was conveyed really beautifully. Mateo faces a lot of struggles in the book, and I was completely pulled into his emotions and life. The themes about family, friends, immigration, the definition of strength, and racism (particularly faced by his sister in school) were really powerful, and this would make a great book club or classroom read.
Final verdict: Immersive, heartfelt, and well-written, INDIVISIBLE is a fantastic YA contemporary read about immigration, family, and perseverance. Highly recommend whether read alone or in classroom or book club settings.