Thursday, 6 October 2016

#BLOGTOBER DAY 6: 'Something In Between' by Melissa de la Cruz

Image result for something in between melissa de la cruz cover
*This review will contain spoilers!* 

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Mira Ink for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'My mind turns back to the millions of illegal immigrants in this country, waiting and hiding. Trying to stay in America is a game of cat and mouse, a life of working under the table, for less than minimum wage, with no way to report workplace abuses and transgressions. What happens when they get sick? What happens when they're hurt? The sacrifice they're making is enormous.
My story is only one of many.'

'First you have to hollow out. Suck your belly button back against your spine. Pull up toward your rib cage. Maintain eye contact. Remember to breathe. Feel your muscles tighten. Make yourself compact. Lift up. Fly.'
When you read that opening section, is the first image that pops into your mind one of a cheerleader preparing to be thrown into the air? Nope, me neither. The anorexic overtones make me very uncomfortable.

Jasmine de los Santos is the highest achiever in school. Captain of the cheer squad, she's constantly awarded straight As and she's now been named as one of the recipients of the National Scholar award, a prize which will give her full financial aid for any college she dreams of applying to.
However, Jasmine was born in the Philippines, and she's in America illegally. When her parent's temporary work visas ran out they decided to stay in the country anyway, concealing it from their children to allow them to continue their educations uninterrupted.
Jasmine is distraught. She's always thought she was an American, and now she's finding out she's an undocumented alien? It's the worse thing that could have happened. She worries for her little brothers, Danny and Isko, and how the news will impact upon their futures.
Before finding out she was in the country illegally, Jasmine met Royce Blakely - son of a very high profile LA politician - and quickly developed feelings for him. His father actively campaigns against immigrants, and as their relationship becomes more serious Jasmine feels very guilty for concealing the truth of her undocumented status. She's not sure whether she can tell him or not: if he mentions it to his father, will it cause her family to get deported even faster? Or does he share his father's beliefs that immigrants all deserve to be shipped back to where they came from?
Can Jasmine trust Royce, or will loyalty to his family come first?

Jasmine's immigration story was fantastic, but the romance was so disgustingly Disney. Their eyes meet in a hospital waiting room, where Royce is visiting his injured uncle and Jasmine is interviewing patients for a storytelling project, and after he leaves his comes back with a cheesy line about how he forgot something - to get her number.
They literally haven't spoken until that point.
If a stranger came up to me and asked for my number and we'd never interacted before, no matter how attractive he was I would say no. You don't know what kind of creeps are out there! It's just not realistic, particularly because Jasmine has never had a boyfriend and strongly subscribes to her family's traditional Filipino views regarding relationships.
But she gives him her phone so he can enter her number, he takes a goofy selfie, and she texts him as soon as he walks out of the room. Literally two seconds afterwards. I hate books where the protagonist is constantly wondering about whether to text the love interest, but I would at least wait until I got home from volunteering.
It gets better. The perfect portrayal of that Katy Perry song, Royce and Jasmine switch from hot to cold to hot to cold to hot to cold, and it's infuriating. They break-up, get back together, profess their love for each other, nearly sleep together, break-up again, ignore each other for almost the entire Christmas holiday, get back together, spend all of their time in each others company, nearly get married (until she runs away and leaves him on the courthouse steps...). They are the definition of an unstable relationship.
The romantic aspect of the novel makes me want to give it a 1 star.
I have never read anything focused on immigrants before, and 'Something In Between' is educational, eye-opening and distressing. I wasn't surprised to read the author note at the end of the novel sharing that Melissa de la Cruz went through the same thing as Jasmine, struggling to avoid deportation and become a green card-holding American citizen. It was obvious that the novel was written with attention to detail, great research and the inherent knowledge that comes from experiencing something like this means that it's devastatingly realistic.
Because of how much I loved Jasmine's story, I would have awarded that plot a 5 star rating, which is why I've rated the novel 3 stars overall. It's just a shame that setting up the immigration story (Jasmine finding out she was illegal, the spiraling panic as they realise they might be deported, Jasmine's mother losing her job due to her false papers) was prioritised so heavily over the development of the romance, because if they'd both developed slowly and naturally it would have been the best book I'd read this year.

I read a couple of Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods series and I had similar problems with the instant head-over-heels meant-to-be love, I'd just hoped that Melissa had gotten better at writing the start of teenage relationships in the last ten years. Apparently that is not the case.
If you can cope with the sickening relationship, I'd highly recommend this book - particularly if you live in America and aren't aware of the plight of immigrants in your country due to the strict laws. It might inspire you to do charity work or volunteering, because it's definitely a worthwhile cause to get behind.
If you've read any other books focusing upon immigration - either YA, adult fiction or non-fiction - please leave your recommendations down below. This is a topic I'd definitely like to read deeper into.

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