In the current climate of immigration debate, both in the US and UK (and other places, presumably, which aren’t mentioned so often in The Guardian), I was intrigued to read Something In Between, which focuses on Jasmine, a teenager who discovers just before applying to college that her family is in the US illegally, having moved from the Philippines when she was a child. This then forms the backdrop to friendship drama, cheerleading, romance and seemingly thwarted ambitions.
I was really interested in the parts of the book which related to Jasmine and her family’s fight to stay in America; having been there so long, Jasmine thinks of herself as American and her younger brothers don’t even remember their life in Manila, so the book asks interesting questions about identity and the extent to which nationality and patriotism play a part in that. The attitudes of some of the other characters towards Jasmine and immigrants in general were very narrow-minded, and much as I thought some of these characters were very one-dimensional (i.e. a bitchy girl whose main characteristic is being rude about immigration), I recognised that a lot of people in real life share these views; you only have to watch a certain presidential candidate giving speeches to realise Something In Between is very topical. I can’t think of another YA book that’s so overtly political, and I really admire de la Cruz for putting in so much detail about immigration policy; it makes this a very educational read. I was really interested in the author’s afterword, in which she explains the parallels between Jasmine’s struggles and her own; it made me think about what I’d read in a different light.
There were some aspects of the Something In Between which made me roll my eyes a bit. One major example is the relationship between Jasmine and Royce, who, by an amazing coincidence, is the son of a congressman who opposes an immigration reform bill which would help illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. In what is presumably supposed to be a realistic story, this did seem like an extraordinary bit of timing. There were many instances when Jasmine responded to someone in a really immature way; I get that she’s a teenager and it’s a stressful time, but she’s also clearly meant to be smart and mature so her frequent stropping and ignoring of tet messages were, frankly, a bit silly.
The book which Something In Between most reminded me of was Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything; in terms of the romance against the odds, the use of social media, the general adolescent drama, they have quite a lot in common. So if you liked Yoon’s book, I think you would definitely enjoy this one. I’d recommend Something In Between to anyone seeking more diversity in their reading; it’s not so easy to find diverse YA reads, so this should be valued for that reason.