Friday, September 30, 2011

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

A promise.
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera.

Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience. (from GoodReads)

I was intrigued by the synopis of Illegal because I think illegal immigration is an issue that divides a lot of people and always ends up being the subject of every presidential debate. Regardless of your views on this important topic, it's always good to read about the people who are affected by this the most - the actual immigrants.

I was glad that Bettina Restrepo decided to address this issue in a YA novel, but I think the execution could have been better. The writing was really easy and the story was fast; I think I read this in about a day. I loved the addition of Spanish words into the story, especially since I'm minoring in Spanish. There is a handy glossary in the back but the few times I needed it the word I wanted wasn't there, which was strange.

The book is really short and I wish the author had took more time (and pages) to really delve into the emotions and feelings of these characters. Everything was distant and I didn't really feel much during high emotion points, like when Nora and her mom are crossing the border. I thought there could have been more action because it seems pretty dangerous but the book made it sound like it was nothing to get into the United States.

Like I said before, the plot moved very quickly and things almost seem too easy for the characters. Nora and her mom find an apartment and a job within a day of arriving in a foreign country and they seem relatively well-off; there's some mention of only having one pair of shoes but other than that Nora is fed and housed and pretty well taken care of.

I was hoping for the novel to be more gritty but I think Illegal might be geared towards younger readers. Regardless, there was still an element of hope and perseverance that should resonate with any age group. So if you are interested in this topic go ahead and read Illegal, but it's not the most compelling of reads.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10
FTC: sent to me from the author.

2011/Katherine Tegen Books/256 pages.

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