In “Something in Between,” bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz takes the subject of undocumented families and makes their stories real. This is specifically about a smart and driven girl who wins a national award for academics only to find out that her family is undocumented.
Her parents had been hiding the situation from Jasmine and her two brothers. De la Cruz allows the reader a glimpse into what thoughts and feelings would flood someone in this terrible spot. She creates an authentic character who was born in the Philippines, but who has lived in the United States for most of her life. She considers herself American, and she is stunned to learn that she is not.
Jasmine has spent her whole life working toward being the best — student, cheerleader, daughter — and getting admitted to a top college. She is determined to make the most of her life, and her parents, strict Filipino parents, help her. Jasmine meets Royce, the son of a Congressman, and they fall in love. But Royce’s father is against any immigration reform. Can the couple overcome that which threatens to separate them? It’s not just a matter of social inequality, it’s also about the stigma of being undocumented — an alien. Learning that she is not an American changes the way Jasmine thinks of herself until she learns what is important in life. She learns that “No one — not the law, not a college admissions officer, not your friends, not your teachers or parents or any other people, can define who you are.” Only she can do that.
The story is written beautifully, and it’s difficult to put the novel down. Jasmine and her struggle represent the very real threat that faces thousands of young people in our country. If telling the story helps bring empathy to those people, then this should be required high school reading. While this book is not entirely autobiographical, de la Cruz and her family did come to America from the Philippines when she was thirteen years old.
Jasmine may be from the Philippines, but those who share her struggle and her despair come from almost every continent. It’s easy to take citizenship for granted, but after reading “Something in Between,” readers might just think twice about it.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Harlequin Teen, for review purposes.