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The Secret Side of Empty

Review

The Secret Side of Empty

THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY is a novel about the high price of keeping secrets and the desperate need to find somewhere to belong.
 
M.T. has never known any home besides her New Jersey suburb, but like her parents, she was born in Argentina. Her family is in the US illegally, a fact that has colored everything from her ability to enroll in school to her father's ability to find a job. But her mom enrolls her in a Catholic school that looks the other way, her dad bounces from under-the-table job to job and M.T. can almost forget her family's secret --- the one she can never tell, not even to her best friend Chelsea.
 
But in her senior year of high school, it gets harder to pretend she's just another American teenager. As everyone around her begins talking about college plans, she knows she can never attend. She can never get a well-paying job without papers. And as her father gets more and more abusive, it seems more and more pointless to finish senior year and believe she can have a future.
 
THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY perfectly captures how isolating a secret can be. 
 
A cute boy who's interested in M.T. comes as a wonderful distraction. But cracks in the relationship start to form as he senses her frustration and fear, yet is unable to get her to open up about what's wrong. Chelsea won't stop asking about college, and M.T. decides it's easier to just shut her out. The more help she needs, the more she pulls away from anyone who cares.
 
THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY perfectly captures how isolating a secret can be. Every time M.T. gets close to opening up, she sees her family deported, leaving the only country she's ever known. The author also does a great job of portraying M.T.'s thoughts of futility. Though it's ultimately self-destructive, it makes sense when M.T. --- the great student who loves school --- begins to cut classes because she knows a high school diploma will be meaningless when she can't use it to get a better job or higher education.
 
The book's conclusion is frustratingly quick and neat and doesn't seem to address the real life steps that M.T would need to take to try to secure her future in the United States. There are some vague references to Google searches for legal solutions throughout the book that suggest M.T. has looked into all of her options before the book begins, but it would have been nice for the reader to see some of those.
 
THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY is a great read for anyone who's ever felt like an outsider.

Reviewed by Molly Horan on March 12, 2014

The Secret Side of Empty
by Maria E. Andreu

  • Publication Date: July 28, 2015
  • Genres: Young Adult 14+
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press Kids
  • ISBN-10: 0762459166
  • ISBN-13: 9780762459162