By: Marie Marquardt
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
Alma is the youngest daughter in a hard working Mexican family in Georgia. Her entire family works in the small community of Gilberton, Georgia in various labor intensive roles including landscaping and working at the local poultry plant. Alma craves more for her life. She wants college and a career not chicken feathers and fear. Alma and her family live with a constant cloud hanging over them due to their undocumented status. If anyone finds out that they are in the United States illegally, the family will be deported. Alma throws herself into her school work to avoid thinking about what could happen, but things begin to change in her life when she meets the handsome and wealthy Evan.
Evan is the All American sort - he's handsome, comes from a prominent Southern family with political roots, and is a star athlete. He could have his pick of girls at Gilberton High, but there is something about Alma that he can't ignore. From the first moment he meets her, he finds that he craves more time in her presence. The two strike up an unlikely friendship which soon becomes more romantic than plutonic.
Alma and Evan must navigate the tricky waters of being together when they come from two vastly different worlds. I enjoyed seeing the immigration issue from a different perspective. So many times we only hear the voices of Americans and politicians. It's rare that the undocumented person tells their story. Immigration is such a huge topic in the United States right now that I feel we need more novels like this one. It was also nice to see a Hispanic main character.
One of my favorite aspects about reading this one was the setting. While Gilberton is fictional, I did see glimpses of real towns in Georgia in some of the physical aspects of the setting such as the high school. I was curious if my hunches about the location were correct so I sent a message to the author. She was kind enough to respond that Gilberton was created from a collection of influences in the North Georgia area, but the town that I was thinking of was indeed one of those influences. This allowed me to root myself in Alma and Evan's story in a more authentic way.
I was also intrigued by the underlying dialogue about education in my state. There are positives and negatives to the school systems in Georgia, but I hope that more of them will be understanding to the needs of their diverse student bodies.
Overall, I enjoyed this modern and relevant Romeo and Juliet-esque tale. Alma's situation was precarious and heartbreaking. I would recommend this one to readers who are interested in the lives of undocumented peoples or those who enjoy diverse main characters.
One Last Gripe: I was a little put off that Evan and Alma rushed into romance so quickly. I wanted to see more of a friendship develop between these two.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I always enjoy stories where a previously unheard from person drives the narration. Marquardt gives a voice to a group that has been denied one.
First Sentence: If you grab a machete blade near the bottom, just above the handle, it won't cut through your skin.
Favorite Character: Alma
Least Favorite Character: Conway
A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.
Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.