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The Secret Side of Empty

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  873 ratings  ·  217 reviews
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 thei
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Running Press
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Hannah It is a fictional book, but the author used her own experiences and applied them to the story. So the characters are fictional, but the idea of the st…moreIt is a fictional book, but the author used her own experiences and applied them to the story. So the characters are fictional, but the idea of the struggle for illegal immigrants and their families was based on experience.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  873 ratings  ·  217 reviews

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Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, ya
Something I loved about this book was that it brought my attention to a subject I knew little about; that being the lives of illegal immigrants in the US. Side note; 'illegal immigrant' is such a politically loaded phrase here that I feel uncomfortable writing it, but given that's how the character described herself I'm guessing that's okay terminology in the US??

Anyway, back to the point - the story follows MT, an intelligent, hard-working, and focused student, but one who doesn't have the fut
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love it when a book surprises me. I picked this book up at ALA because I love hearing voices in books that I haven't heard before, and this book deals with an undocumented immigrant--Monserrat Thalia, whose family is from Argentina but who is blonde and pale and goes by M.T., hiding the truth from all her friends in her well-to-do New Jersey town.

But let's face it, I went to ALA and BEA this year and out of the 50+ books I came home with, this one wasn't the most glamorous-looking in the pile.
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was so lucky to be able to read an advanced copy of this book. Part of what I love about YA is how complicated and emotional topics can be broken down and made so ... real.

I admit that while I knew that there were real issues with immigration, and children of undocumented immigrants, it wasn't really until this book that I really heard a true "voice." It made me stop and think in a way that I hadn't before, about a topic that I just glossed over.

And aside from the central "issue" of the book -
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
Any time we have a well-written story that humanizes a subset of our society that has been demonized or dehumanized, there is a chance it will be a worthwhile read.

With the overwhelming popularity of The Fault in Our Stars we're going to see a wave of YA realistic-fiction focusing on difficult topics. This is nothing new in YA. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Speak in 1999. Judy Blume wrote Are You There God It's Me Margaret in 1970. But in an age overrun with Wizards, Zombies, and Vampires, realist
Betsy Voreacos
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Secret Side of Empty is one of those books you can’t put down. And, because at some point you have to; when you do, you can’t stop thinking about it. M.T. has a secret that to her is so defining, so demeaning, so debilitating that she can’t share it with anyone – not her best friend, not her beloved teacher, not her boyfriend. And while the majority of readers have not lived M.T.’s secret, most of us can relate to a personal albatross, monkey on the back or gut-wrenching experience that has ...more
May 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I have a lot of things to say about this book, I don't know where to start.

Okay I'll start with the one thought that was constantly poping in my mind, WHY

I always think about situations like this one, and I never get an answer.
If you can't provide a good life to your child, then don't bring him to life to suffer. That simple.

In the last part of the book I was thinking about how come the author knew
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, 2014
This book is kind of really really good.

The voice is amazing and perfect and the characters… love them.

It was such a good perspective to read… I mean who reads/writes about illegal immigrants and portrays them as human? this book does. and the darkness to it was a good level… not too much but enough to make you sad but not so crappy that you feel like committing suicide reading it. really good.
Michelle (Undeniably Book Nerdy)
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 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.

Full review (originally posted on Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks)

I won't be surprised if The Secret Si
People always talk about fighting being the brave thing. But maybe the bravest thing is knowing when to stop. Knowing when you are beat. It is such a simple answer. It almost makes me happy.

The Secret Side of Empty is a touching story about M.T., an undocumented immigrant. (M.T. describes herself as an 'illegal immigrant'.) When entering her senior year of high school it is becoming clearer than ever for her how different her life is from her peers' lives. They have grand plans to h
4.5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
So, short little story to kickstart this review. I have been going through a pretty bad reading slump lately. Every book I pick up seems to be mediocre, or just plain bad. And it kind of made me not want to read. Like ever. So, when I picked up this book, I was a bit nervous, because I had been really excited to read it, but what if it was another letdown?

It wasn't.

In fact, it was probably one of the best books I have
Reading is my Escape
Secret Side of Empty - Review  

“How do you explain to someone that you are so horrible and useless that your own father despises you? I am so ashamed. I don’t want them to know because I know they’ll figure out what that means about me. The dirty, ugly outcast I really am.”


“… seventeen ways to say Illegal: Broken, Alone, Not allowed, Wrong, Trapped, Shunned, Unwanted, Not good enough, Apart, A secret, On the wrong side, Misplaced, A threat, A mistake, Voiceless, Unheard, and Still here anyway."
Laura Macy
Feb 17, 2022 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sophie Breslow
Jul 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zoe and the Edge
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have no future

This book deals with a lot of emotions and the going can be really rough reading it. I teared up a number of times and my heart just ached for everything that M.T. goes through. It's a coming of age book so don't expect a heavy romance or a typical HEA.
M.T. is sensitive about being Spanish, about being poor, and about being illegal. All these things are her dirty secret. She has rich friends and classmates and has a lot of turmoil and anger regarding her poverty.’s heav
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is definitely a problem novel. Not only does the main character face the overwhelming and stifling secret of being an illegal immigrant, but she also suffers poverty in a wealthy New Jersey town, physical and emotional abuse from her angry father who longs to return to Argentina triumphant but who fears deportation so much that he has terrified M.T. about letting anyone know their status, their dilemma. Monserrat Thalia, Monse as a nickname, or when most of her teachers and classmates could ...more
Alexandria Rivera
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The author is amazing and the book is inspiring!!!!!!! I couldn't put this book down once I picked it up. I found myself going through so many emotions as I moved through the chapters - laughter, tears, relief, uncertainty... the folks on my commute must've thought I was crazy. The emotion that I felt while reading this book is a testament to the author's ability to paint such a vibrant descriptive picture of M.T.'s life.

The "Secret Side of Empty" really opened my eyes to a side of immigration I
Liza Wiemer
Overall: Drawn upon the author's own experiences as a illegal immigrant, this novel will open the readers' eyes to the fear of not belonging and the constant threat of being deported. Shows the non-political, human side of a tough political issue. Other issues addressed are depression, suicidal thoughts, physical abuse. Easy, quick to read, emotionally charged.

Cover: Well done. Reflects the character's loneliness.

M.T.'s father had big dreams - to come to America and make his fortune. But as an
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I planned to read a couple of chapters before bed. You can all guess how that turned out.

THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY is a fast, engrossing read. It seems to start off lightly, but quickly evolves into a weighty book dealing with issues of immigration, abuse, and depression. A lot has been said about that, and I agree with much of it. Particularly the M.T.'s growing apathy/frustration and suicidal feelings rang painfully true.

Something else that particularly stood out at me, though, were the seemi
Chris Struyk-Bonn
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: pg, romance, teen
The real name of this book should've been "The Secret Side of M.T." because that's what the character is called. It drove me nuts the entire book, having a main character called "M.T." I pretty much hate when book characters have acronyms instead of names. My brain automatically slows down at a period, so I'm reading smoothly and then -- BANG -- I stop. All because of the character's stupid name. Also, the fact that it pronounces out to "Empty" is too convenient.

This book was a slow read. The ch
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was immeasurably lucky to receive an early review copy of this book and once I had this in my hands, I inhaled it in just a couple of days! (Its arrival on my doorstep just missed being taken on vacation, but as it turns out that may not have been a bad thing… I wouldn't have wanted to leave the hotel room!) Being a teenager is hard (I wouldn't relive those years if someone paid me!) and the author captures that so succinctly, the anxiety and grief is almost tangible. As a teen, I remember so ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was an unexpected treasure.I love the fact that it was so eassy to get emotionally invested into M.T.'s world. M.T. feels alone and hopeless and that is why she is such a relatable character because everyone has felt what she feels atleast once in their lifetime. I saw myself in her while reading this and felt for the well being of her and every other character in this book.

Maria E. Andreu(the author) cares about the readers well being also which makes me respect her so much. The evide
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Now this is what I was looking for -- a novel that can expose my teens to the experience of an undocumented immigrant in America in a nuanced and sympathetic way, with the surprise bonus of a truly sensitive depiction of domestic abuse and how it affects the whole family. M.T. might be one of the best-written teen characters I've read in a long time. Her voice is honest and funny and age-appropriate and fresh. Unfortunately (and the reason I didn't give the book 5 stars) some of the side charact ...more
Apr 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya
3,75, more so.

Okay, so, it's a good book. Not your typical girl-in-high-school-book. But still... I felt like it lacked depth. I think the author is trying to convey very difficult subjects, but still make it a story about a senior girl with senior girl struggles. Umm... I don't think I could care about some of the things M. cares if I was in her situation. Maybe it's a problem that I didn't relate to her.

The characters could not be more plain, imo. Chelsea is Chelsea, we don't really see an ev
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lorraine McCullough
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I loved that this revealed the human aspect behind immigration. Many times we hear such negativity associated with immigrants or undocumented "illegals." It is so negative that we almost forget these people are human. These are people with a story and a family and a heart. I love that this topic is being explored in YA because it is emotional and raw and scary, and we see these topics in other YA fiction books. I work in a school where many of our students face similar struggles with their famil ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was able to receive an advance copy of this amazing book. I didn't want to put it down because I truly connected with the characters and wanted to see what happened next. It deals with some tough issues in the most embracing way. The message screams "You are not alone". What a great message to so many young people out there. The tone of the book really tapped into "young adult" land. I found myself remembering those butterflies you get at that age.

Love, love, love!
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. I can relate to the character M.T., growing up as a young immigrant in an new country, her struggles with trying to fit in, new experiences and lessons in friendships are wonderfully written and great book for mature teens & youthful adults. My daughter can't put the book down!! ...more
Rachel Rickard Rebellino
Immigration status remains a largely ignored topic in YA, and I wanted to like this book so much more than I did because it takes up that subject. The main character, M.T. was interesting; however, the plot felt as though it was going off in too many directions. Additionally, the relatively neat and tidy ending seemed inauthentic and too short (even though the book as a whole felt too long).
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2014
I wanted this to be so much better than it was. A good YA book about illegal immigrants would be more than welcome. This mostly reads like a novelization of an after school special. It had a lot of potential, but lived up to very little if it.
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MT'S SECRET 1 3 Oct 28, 2016 09:01AM  
About the book: 1 2 Oct 28, 2016 08:53AM  
Never Too Old For...: Read 4 Review #166 - The Secret Side of Empty (Closed) 27 61 Jun 13, 2014 06:17PM  
Goodreads Authors...: YA novel about undocumented immigrant 3 27 Jan 16, 2014 07:17PM  
Young Adult Ficti...: YA novel about undocumented immigrant 1 14 Jan 12, 2014 05:17PM  
Addicted to YA: New YA novel about an undocumented immigrant 1 10 Jan 12, 2014 09:53AM  

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Maria E. Andreu is a writer and author of the forthcoming LOVE IN ENGLISH (Balzer + Bray, 2021) and an untitled book (B+B, 2022). Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post,, and the Newark Star Ledger. Her debut young adult novel, The Secret Side of Empty is a Junior Library Guild Selection, a National Indie Excellence Book Award winner, and has been called “captivating” by Sch ...more

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