Something in Between
By: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?
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.
Oh, my heartstrings.
I know Melissa de la Cruz by word of mouth, but except for having picked up one book of hers (The Au Pairs), I’ve studiously avoided her. Most of what she writes about seems to be gossipy romances between the famous, wealthy and supernatural. But I had an ARC of Something in Between sitting on my bookshelf, and I felt compelled to pick it up.
I was more than a little surprised by the premise, honestly, since it seemed so different than most of her other books. But at the same time, it seemed so honest and earnest that it drew me in completely. I couldn’t help but want to read about Jasmine de los Santos, the all-around perfect girl who suddenly learns that she’s undocumented. Jasmine was so sweet and refreshing, someone you couldn’t help but like. And although there was definitely a bit of instalove between her and Royce, they were also just so darn cute together. I also felt that their relationship was somewhat silly, but understandable, since they were seventeen/eighteen in the book.
What I really liked about Jasmine’s story was her fire, her refusal to give up even when it seemed like everything was stacked against her. I loved her family, and how close she was with them and how much she relied on them. And, although I thought that in general she needed better friendships, they felt somewhat realistic based on time and place (high school in LA). The plot also caught me–I was surprised at how intensely I got involved in the story, to the point where my heart was pounding through Jasmine’s numerous struggles to gain even the permission to stay in the country.
I’ll be honest, though. The writing wasn’t spectacular, and I might not have gotten as deeply involved in the plot if I didn’t have such a personal understanding of and investment in the issue. My dad isn’t a citizen, although he’s a legal resident and has a green card. I was born here, but it was a little too easy to put myself in Jas’ shoes. I also have a decent understanding of the complex bureaucratic machine that is citizenship and residency law, and just how easily it can misfire to the misfortune of many. My mom is an Academic advisor at a college, and has often had to deal with issues around undocumented students. It’s amazing to me, too, how one wrong step in the bureaucratic dance and all of a sudden you’re an illegal person.
One thing that also stood out to me was that, although the writing wasn’t great, it was clearly very passionate. In the Author’s Note, Melissa de la Cruz talks about how the book is loosely autobiographical, based on her own struggles to gain citizenship during high school. That passion made the book worth reading to me, as well as for further knowledge of an issue that is controversial, but goes generally unremarked on. Even though the writing and plot weren’t exceptional, I felt that the story was worth reading just to gain a measure of empathy from a sad and often overlooked situation.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.