Monday 10 October 2016

Reviewed: Something In Between by Melissa De La Cruz

TITLE: Something in Between
AUTHOR: Melissa De La Cruz

PUBLICATION DATE: October 4, 2016

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When your country doesn’t want you there, how do you know where you belong?

Jasmine de los Santos has been pushed by her Filipino immigrant parents to over-achieve, be the best she can be, work as hard as she can at school and reach for the American Dream. She’s thrilled to be named a finalist for the National Scholarship Award and prepares to go to Washington, D. C. to receive it. But when she brings home the paperwork, she learns that she and all her family are in the country illegally.

As Jasmine’s world shatters around her, she rebels, trying to make sense of herself—who is she? Is she American? Illegal? Something in between? Jasmine decides to accept the award anyway and goes to D.C., where she meets Royce Blakely, the handsome son of a Republican congressman. As she fights for her very identity, will Jasmine find help in unexpected places, and will she ever figure out where she belongs?

Melissa De La Cruz really made me feel Jasmine’s emotions and how she felt being torn between the life she thought she had as an American citizen and the life of somebody who is an illegal immigrant. I found myself really fond of Jasmine. At the beginning, she has her own identity. She’s a brave, clever, hard-working girl, captain of the cheerleading team and finalist for a National Scholarship Award. But it’s the same award that leads her to the discovery that her parents have been keeping something from her – they are in the country illegally. The remainder of the book is quite moving as we see Jasmine struggle to come to terms with this, and the stereotypes and judgmental attitude of people in the country she is no longer officially a part of.

I really enjoyed the immigration theme in Something in Between. It was interesting and emotionally involving and I felt invested in this part of the story. To me the book was a bit of a slow-starter but once it was revealed that Jasmine and her family didn’t have Green cards, I was hooked and eager to see if and how things would work out for them.

There is, at the same time, a typical YA story of romance and friendship. Early on, Jasmine meets Royce, an insecure kid whose politically involved dad is heavily against illegal immigrants. It took me a long time to warm to Royce. I don’t even really know why, but I just couldn’t connect to his character at the beginning. He seemed distant and difficult to really get a feel for. Jasmine, on the other hand, very quickly warmed to Royce! She’s studied a lot and not really had a proper relationship, but she is drawn to Royce straight away and from exchanging text messages to finally meeting properly, after meeting only briefly at first, they have a sweet romance throughout the book which is definitely cute to read about but not as appealing to me as the more serious theme of the book was. They go back and forth a lot which is the norm of teenage romance novels, but at times I wanted less of that and more about Jasmine’s family and their circumstances.

The romance did add another dimension to Something in Between, though, maintaining the realism in a YA novel as no matter how complex a teenage girl feels their life is, boys often play a part in all that and Royce gave Jasmine something else to focus on other than her family’s status. But I think the main reason I liked this book so much was because of the immigration aspect so I would have preferred less of the romance in that way.

Brave and thought-provoking, Something in Between is an honest story about diversity and identity. Despite having little in common with Jasmine, I really connected with her character and could feel her struggle to come to terms with losing her identity. There is a self-discovery feel to this novel as Jasmine learns about herself at the same time as the reader does, and this aspect was very engaging. I loved getting to know several of the characters in Something in Between and felt like this was a really strong part of the book. Overall I was moved by and really enjoyed this novel and its important and relevant theme.

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