It sucks you in and never lets go until the novel ends. And even then... I'm going to be thinking of this one for days. M.T. was an intriguing charact...moreIt sucks you in and never lets go until the novel ends. And even then... I'm going to be thinking of this one for days. M.T. was an intriguing characters--I felt for her and her situation but she's not entirely sympathetic either (e.g., her relationship with her mother, who was a more sympathetic character). Instead she's very much a teenager, very human and very compelling. Full review to come.
I won't be surprised if The Secret Side of Empty wins a bunch of awards. Because, yep, it's that good. The novel is a little over 300 pages and I read it within 24 hours. I haven't read a 300+ book that fast in... well, forever. Right from the get go M.T.'s (her full name was Monserrat Thalia) voice and situation sucks you in and you pretty much have to keep reading until you're done.
The main theme of The Secret Side of Empty was being an undocumented immigrant or, as M.T. calls it, an "illegal." Her parents illegally came to the United States from Argentina when she was a baby. Her dad had big dreams of starting his own business and making it big in the U.S. and they will all eventually go back to Argentina. But over the years, it never happened and it left M.T.'s dad very bitter and abusive. So, M.T.'s home life wasn't a happy place.
School was her happy place--she's a straight-A student, the vice-president of the National Honor Society, she has a great best friend in Chelsea and was falling in love with her first boyfriend. But they were in their senior year and everyone was talking about college. Being an undocumented immigrant and her family poor, college wasn't an option for M.T. Seeing her friends' lives moving on to greater and grander things while she's stuck with no true options, she felt empty.
M.T. was an intriguing character. I felt for her and her situation but she wasn't entirely a sympathetic character either. She made some bad decisions. She's book smart but she also drinks at parties. She's outspoken but she's keeping a huge secret about her and her family. She sees her mother as a doormat and doesn't always appreciate all the things she did for M.T. or see her mom's inner strength. In her most darkest moment she contemplated suicide. She's imperfect and very human. There were times I didn't like her and there were times I wanted to give her a hug and I really liked that. I think all readers will see a bit of themselves in M.T.
The secondary characters were fleshed out as well. I love M.T.'s best friend Chelsea--she's the kind of friend you want in your corner. And M.T.'s love interest, Nate, was lovely. Everyone's first boyfriend should be like Nate. M.T. and Nate's relationship was bittersweet in the sweetest possible way.
After I finished reading The Secret Side of Empty it stayed with me for days. Such as fantastic debut novel by Maria Andreu! I cannot wait to read more by her. The entire story just felt so real and written so well that it sucks you in. The characters were imperfectly perfect and M.T.'s situation is real because there are millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States going through what she went through. But even if you're not an "illegal," you can still relate to the story because it is more than about being undocumented. The novel also touched on issues of physical abuse and suicide but, really it's more than about all the issues. The Secret Side of Empty is about growing up, making decisions, finding inner strength and finding yourself. You need this book in your life. Read it.(less)