Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

The Secret Side of Empty
by Maria E. Andreu
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Published by Running Press Kids
Pages 336
Source: Publisher
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from Goodreads

As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant.

My Thoughts

The Secret Side of Empty, Maria E. Andreu's debut novel, is a story that a reader can easily become swept up in. From the very beginning, I was interested in M.T. and her relationships with her friends. The opening scene (a car race/chase with a group of boys) was captivating, possibly because I experienced something very similar in high school, but also because it revealed existing relationships, set up the relationships M.T. would have, and exposed an overwhelming fear.

M.T. immigrant status affects every aspect of her life. She cannot completely confide in her best friend for fear of judgment. She cannot confide in her teachers for fear of deportation. She cannot confide in her boyfriend for fear of disgust. She cannot voice her opinions at home for fear of abuse because sometimes it comes her way unexpectedly and she never knows what will or won't set her father off. She doesn't have anyone to turn to.

As graduation approaches, and her future becomes more uncertain, M.T.'s relationships start to unravel, and everything seems to become hopeless. Just like M.T.'s fears exposure in almost every circumstance or relationship, I was always wondering what was going to be event that revealed that she was an undocumented immigrant. When would all of the evaded questions catch up with her? When would she be found out?

There was a lot more humor and wit that I expected and even with the seriousness of what M.T. experiences, she is a funny girl. We get to know this through her relationships with her friends, her bantering ways, and her inner dialogues.

The Secret Side of Empty is an incredible story with a premise different from any that I've read. It really does shed light on the concept that you can never really know what another person is going through. Admittedly, it might not be the first book I would pick up because of a preconceived idea of what I think it will be about. However, having read it, I now know that would be a complete disservice to me as a reader and to this book. This is a book that I will recommend and continue to recommend time and time again.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from Running Press Kids in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any way other than the book provided. Thoughts and opinions are my own.


  1. Okay, I have to say I probably wouldn't pick this one out. But since you think it is so good I will definitely put it on my TBR list and keep an open mind. Great review!



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