Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. 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 to the school of her dreams.
And then everything shatters. Her parents are forced 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.
As she’s trying to make sense of who she is in this new reality, her world is turned upside down again by Royce Blakely. He’s funny, caring and spontaneous—basically everything she’s been looking for at the worst possible time—and now he’s something else she may lose.
Jasmine will stop at nothing to protect her relationships, family and future, all while figuring out what it means to be an immigrant in today’s society.
Review: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz
Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz is the sensitively told story of Jasmine de Los Santos: straight A student, cheer captain, and junior class president. She’s poised for greatness, earning a National Scholarship, when her parents drop the bomb: she can’t accept it because she and her family are undocumented immigrants, in America illegally.
Something in Between was my first Melissa de la Cruz book, and I really enjoyed it. I know that Melissa has written dozens of other books in the past, but this one that really appealed to me. Why? Because it’s about immigration, an issue that I’ve been passionate about ever since I saw the movie The Visitor, and it’s written about a Filipino family by a Filipino. I loved the idea of reading a book by an author of colour telling her own story, so yeah, I was here for it.
When I first picked up this book, I admit that my feelings on undocumented citizens were a bit shallow at best. Living in Canada, where citizenship is a bit easier to acquire, I didn’t fully understand why there are so many undocumented immigrants in the US. This book looks at the reason for that, but more, it looks at how it feels to be told you’re living in your home, but you’re illegal.
De la Cruz doesn’t hold back on the drama and the tears. Jasmine goes through all the stages of acceptance of the turn of events, determined for her family to stay in the States. Something in Between is both heroic and heartrending. I felt every moment, every thought she had. Jasmine is one of my favorite heroines this year – she’s not a superhero, but she is someone you probably are or know in school. She’s confident, plucky, and fierce; I think a lot of girls will admire and relate to her.
And when Jas falls for a guy, she really falls. The dude is Royce Blakely, who is unfortunately the congressman leading the opposition against an immigration bill that would help Jasmine’s family. Classic Romeo and Juliet stuff, but I really appreciated that de la Cruz gave their romance a lot of weight and meaning. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but this is swoonworthy stuff. You’ll understand why they care about each other so much.
Without a doubt, though, my favourite parts of the novel were when Jas was with her family. I loved how much time Melissa de la Cruz spent on her family in general. Jasmine’s family is traditional Filipino in many ways: she’s not allowed to date unless chaperoned, and definitely no premarital sex. At the same time, her family is also teasing, close, and incredibly loving, willing to bend the rules when it comes to each other’s happiness. I admired and envied their closeness and determination through the challenges of being immigrants and undocumented.
If I have qualms, they are that I felt that the book went on a bit too long. There were scenes that didn’t always move the plot or the emotional arcs along. I did notice that my ARC had at least 20 pages more than the final edition, so I’m hoping some cuts were made.
Heart-squeezing Romance: I already talked about this, but for those of you who are fans of romance novels, I saw a lot of that kind of depth and structure in Royce and Jasmine’s relationship. Definitely hits you in the feels.
Cheerleading as Sport: I’ve talked before about how I was a cheerleader in high school and how a lot of people don’t see cheering as a sport. I’m grateful for books like these that highlight the stigma against cheerleaders and how athletic and committed you have to be to cheer.
Quote-tastic: There were several moments in Something in Between where I was actually nodding at sentences. Even though I’m not Filipino, there are a lot of cultural similarities in many Asian cultures, and familial loyalty and piety are two of them. As a third-generation immigrant, I think there are also a lot of things I had in common with Jasmine. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me:
“…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.”
“Thomas Jefferson was just as important to this country as George Washington. Consider the immensity of this statue. Now thing of the immensity of just one of the documents he wrote and how it influenced not only the creation of America, but both you and me this very day. This man wrote the Declaration of Independence. Can you get any more important than that? This is the challenge we all face. What can we do to better ourselves and this country? What can we do to be remembered? Who do we want to be?”
“I don’t know how to take her comment. I don’t need to have my Filipino-ness pointed out to me. Maybe she’s as uncomfortable as I am that I’m the same race as their help? Maybe she doesn’t know what to say. So I play nice. I’ve been taught to smile, to hide my inner fire when not appropriate. Be hospitable, Jasmine.”
“If I do go to college, my life will become even more different from hers. If I don’t go, I know I’ll never live up to her dreams for me. It seems like any path I take will lead us father apart. Maybe that’s part of what being a daughter means. Maybe that’s how the children of all immigrants feel.”
The Final Word:
Something in Between is smart portrait of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in the US. I feel like the book accurately portrays the difficulties of getting citizenship, being an ethnic minority, and figuring out what’s right for you. The romance is great, the family dynamics are pitch-perfect, and above all, I learned something about what I believe in, and about another culture.
SOMETHING IN BETWEEN is out now in bookstores! Have you read it or picked it up yet? What are your feelings on immigration and documentation? Have you read any books that you feel really accurately represent this issue? Let me know in the comments!