Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review: The Secret Side of Empty

Media Type: Print Book
Title: The Secret Side of Empty
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Pages: Hardcover; 336
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Source: Publisher
Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Everyone. This is a beautiful book and I recommend it to everyone!

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant.

There's a little piece of myself that this book took, that I don't think I'll ever get back. I'm not sure I want it back. The Secret Side of Empty struck that perfect spot, right in the deepest parts of my heart, that made me feel the tiniest bit empty myself. M.T.'s story is one that I've seen firsthand. I've seen families broken by the system, unable to do anything but survive. I knew this book dealt with illegal immigration. I knew I'd be meeting a girl who was living it. I just didn't know that it would hit me this hard.

What is so interesting about The Secret Side of Empty is that M.T.'s life is set against the backdrop of wealth. The school she attends is filled with the privileged masses. Her best friend Chelsea is an amazing person, but her life seems so perfect compared to M.T.'s own. It's a heartbreaking premise. I sat, and watched, as M.T. slowly lost more and more of herself. When you're a Senior in high school, you're supposed to be looking forward to the future. What do you do when there doesn't seem to be a future? When you feel trapped in the life that has been built for you?

That's the thing that struck me most of all. The unfairness of it all. Maria E. Andreu builds an protagonist who deserves the world. She is brilliant, caring, and filled with a zeal to learn. Here is a girl who reads for pleasure, and actually enjoys tests. A girl who wants nothing more than to have a future. To watch this sucked away by people who didn't understand what they were doing ate at me. Her father, who hated what she had become and was abusive. Her school, who couldn't see past what M.T. couldn't say. And even her poor mother, who felt helpless and could only watch.

I can't really explain to you the levels that this book explores. There's so much about finding yourself, about struggle, about friendship. The Secret Side of Empty may have had its moments that I didn't connect with, but overall this book took my breath away. There are books I read that I enjoy, and then there are books I read that make my heart hurt a bit but make me feel fulfilled. This is one of those books, and I'm so glad it was placed in my hands.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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