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Secret Side of Empty Paperback – July 28, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Monserrat Thalia, known as M. T., describes herself as pale white with blondish hair. It's easy for her to hide the fact that she's an undocumented immigrant whose family came from Argentina to New Jersey. M. T. keeps this secret from everyone, including her best friend and her eventual boyfriend. She excels in school and by all logic should be applying to colleges, but knows that her immigration status makes that an impossibility. As she watches her friends prepare for the next steps of their lives, the teen grows increasingly hopeless, uncertain how anything positive will come of her life as long as she remains in the country illegally. She doesn't fit anywhere—too American for her parents, but removed from the American culture around her. She begins to skip school, quits soccer, and stops tutoring other teens as her misery grows. Her father's physical and verbal abuse increases as she begins to lash out at her family and withdraw from her friends. It takes interventions from various people as well as finally sharing the truth for her to begin to see a way forward. M. T.'s narration is candid and at times heartbreaking. Told over the course of her senior year, the story reveals a captivating look at the life of one young immigrant and the challenges so many like her face. Andreu deftly captures the protagonist's desires, despair, and determination in this peek at a side of American life not often seen in YA literature.—Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN
With her blonde hair and pale skin, Monserrat Thalia (M.T. for short) is as American as apple pie. Her grades are impressive; she would be the perfect candidate for an Ivy League school, and she dreams of a perfect life and a perfect boyfriend in a perfect world. But that’s all it is—a dream—and not one she feels she can act upon. Like her parents, she is in the country illegally, and no one, not even her best friend, has a clue. Being undocumented isn’t her only challenge: her father, frustrated with their situation, is abusive toward her. When events force M.T. to feel as though she has nothing more to lose, she admits to her status and is surprised to learn she can get help moving forward with her life. With immigration reform a hot button issue across the country, this book couldn’t be timelier. Written with the compassion and raw emotions of one who has lived in the shadows herself, Andreu’s debut offering is a winner. Grades 9-12. --Jeanne Fredriksen
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Top Customer Reviews
While the topic SSOE tackles has been highly politicized, it does not take a political position, and the lessons it imparts are not heavy-handed, like so many similar stories tend to be. Simply put, it's the story of a young woman trying to fit in.
SSOE is fast-paced, well-written and emotionally satisfying. I couldn't recommend it more.
M.T. appears, from the outside, to just be a typical high school senior trying to make it to graduation: Vice President of NHS; going on excursions with her best friend, Chelsea; falling in love with the cute guy who asked her out on Facebook. The problem is, none of these things show others how she truly feels or what she’s going through, and no one can understand how painful it is for her to get through every day with her head up.
M.T. is an illegal immigrant from Argentina, a fact that permeates every aspect of her life. At home, her father, nagged by money worries, abuses her to no end, while her mother helplessly watches on. While her friends excitedly chat about their college plans, M.T. is faced with the knowledge that she will never, ever be able to leave, not without a social security card or the wealth that others so easily flaunt. And no one can ever know about any of these things, or else she is risking the deportation of her parents and little brother.
With breathless glimpses into a life that mirrors ones of so many people in the United States, Maria Andreu reveals a devastatingly conflicted story of a girl forced to grow up and deal with dilemmas that no one should have to face. Written in a frank and honest teenage voice, the book deals with topics that, usually heavy-handed, are instead portrayed as incredibly readable human-rights issues. This is a great read for middle and high school students, not only because it is at the appropriate reading level, but because it gives the story of someone who is both incredibly relatable and requires the help and understanding of those around her.
M.T. is smart, witty and insightful, believable, lovable and frustrating. Whether she is battling her demons at home, interacting with her friends at school or fumbling her way through a relationship with her newfound love, she will make you laugh, make you cry and make you cringe.
The author has mastered the art of unveiling character traits and temperaments through conversation and actions, all the while remaining true to the teenage soul. The writing is beautiful, the pain is credible, and the victories are well won. The ending is satisfying, leaving you with fresh perspectives and a yearning for a sequel.
The Secret Side of Empty is a rare gem. It draws you out of yourself and deposits you right into M.T.’s troubled heart, which is a pretty nice place to spend some time.