Title: Something in Between (2016)
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 384 pages
Release Date: October 4, 2016
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.
Somewhere in Between was originally on my TBR because of its very cute, summery cover, but once I read the blurb I knew I had to fast-track it. This book surprised me with its unexpected depth and exploration of very relevant issues! In a way, it kind of reminds me of Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina, though both books deal with the immigrant story in very, very different ways.
This is the story of Jasmine de los Santos, who moved to the USA with her Filipino family when she was little. After receiving a presidential scholarship, she discovers that her entire family has been there illegally — their visas expired years ago, and they never got a green card. To complicate matters, she’s also falling for Royce, a private school rich boy with a congressman father whose bill essentially goes against Jasmine and her family.
I wasn’t considered an American, I lost sight of who I was. I thought a piece of paper defined me, that I was a different person, lesser. But throughout this entire year, I’ve found out that who I was never changed. I let what the law said about me — that I did, as a human being, was illegal, that I didn’t belong in the place I’d always known as my own home-change my own perception of who I am.
This is an incredibly important book, one that’s especially relevant today because of the themes it explores: family, migration, immigration, belonging, identity, politics, the divide between the rich and the poor. I have never been in Jasmine’s situation or struggled with my identity in her specific way, but I found her story really relatable.
De la Cruz’s writing was a little bit too simplistic for my liking, but her voice was incredibly authentic. Her story of a Filipino family rang true to me and impacted me quite a few times — I loved the portrayal of Jasmine’s parents, who were typical Asian parents but with that extra depth to them; their extended family in the Philippines, even if they didn’t make an on-page appearance; the pressure Jasmine felt from being the firstborn in an immigrant family.
My brothers and I are very different though. […] Since I’m the oldest, I’ve always felt more pressure to be successful. I have to show them the way. And I also have to act like a bridge between them and my parents. Danny and Isko are pretty much 100 percent American. It’s as if my parents are first-generation immigrants and they’re second generation. But I’m stuck somewhere between both of them, trying to figure out how to help them understand each other.
I really only had one major problem with this book: the romance. There was a little bit of an insta-love going on between Jasmine and Royce, especially at first, and Royce in particular took a long time to grow on me. I also feel like the romance could’ve taken a bit of a backseat, mostly because there were other things that needed to be explored. I enjoyed the romance nearing the end, but for the majority of the book, I just didn’t really care for it. It is, however, an interracial-romance (Royce is half-Mexican, half-white), so props for that.
Overall, Something in Between is an enjoyable read, one that surprised me with its exploration of relevant issues. The issues are likely more directly applicable to the current US political climate, but regardless of where you live or where you come from, if you’re looking for a story that both makes you think but also entertains, you need not look further than this one.