Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Title: Dream Things True
Author: Marie Marquardt
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 352
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

I can honestly say that, after reading Dream Things True, I will never be the same. The way I look at the world has been completely altered. Marquardt expertly captures the struggle of undocumented immigrants in a way that tugs at your heartstrings until they snap.

For those who aren't familiar with Dream Things True:

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

A quick note before I get more into the review: telling Evan the truth was never really the problem, though the synopsis makes it sound like as much. Alma told Evan about her legal status within the first fourth of the book. The book was about so much more than just a girl hiding the truth from a boy she has a crush on. It was about the way that she opened Evan's mind to the truth and fought the unfair hand that she was given. This book was truly on another level.

Dream Things True struck really close to home for me. The town I live in is eerily similar to Gilberton. Where Gilberton is known for its chicken industry, my town is known for mushroom farming. More than a third of our school district is Hispanic. Immigrants flock to our town for the business they can find in the mushroom houses. Reading about Gilberton felt like I was reading about the town I call home. And that was a bitter reality check for me.

With this book, Marquardt manages to clog your throat, twist your insides, and wet your eyes with the cold, hard truth of our country. Like Evan, I felt like my eyes were opened by Alma and the difficulties she had to face. Evan represented probably 90% of the American population, people living in their own little bubble, completely unaware of the struggles of those around them. Ignorance is bliss, huh?

The story that Marquardt wove struck me in so many ways. She intricately creates a tale of first love, a heart-pounding romance in which Alma finally learns the meaning of swooning. She exposes the reader to the countless obstacles that undocumented immigrants have to overcome: to become more than a teenage pregnancy statistic, to get a scholarship to college, to get a license. All without a Social Security number. To most of us, a Social Security number is nothing more than a number. It's an expectation, not a privilege. We don't see it for the value it holds. For undocumented immigrants, a Social Security number is a dream, a necessity, a blessing. Those digits mean a difference between a job in America and a windswept town in Mexico. I ached for the characters in this book who fought tooth and nail to keep their family together, just because of a silly string of numbers.

Marquardt built a world where every day can mean a loved one is carted away to a jobless town in Mexico. Every day can mean a child's parent is deported. Every day can mean a person is forced into another country, a place that the government says is their home, but that their heart says is a dead end. Except this world is reality for so many people. Dream Things True was more than just a novel--it was an education. It was an eye-opening experience that revealed the truth of the land we call home.

This novel was a perfect balance between bitter and sweet. The romance was heart-wrenching with the purity and passion of first love.  Yet the forces pulling them apart physically pained me: the dreams of a teenage couple tested by the harsh reality of the world. In addition to the romantic chemistry, the familial chemistry was absolutely moving. The large cast of Garcias had such a strong love for each other that I could feel it in my bones. Every character had depth. I particularly loved Evan's cousin (the son of a Senator), Whit. They were more than characters. They were someone that I could pass by on the street. They were real.

Honestly, I couldn't put this book down. I found myself spaztically sharing everything about it with my brothers. I told them about how I couldn't understand the Spanish used in the book, but there were enough context clues that I understood what was meant, making it a kind of adventure to read the Garcia family exchanges. I explained how astounded I was at the truths I was learning. I told them how it was all I could think about yesterday when I went out to lunch. I couldn't stop talking about this damn book. It was stuck in my head, my heart, and my body. And I'm not sure that it'll ever really leave me.

The story itself, the way it all fell together, the way the characters interacted, the way the society betrayed its people, absolutely entranced me. This book was filled with ups and downs, a roller coaster ride of emotions. The last few chapters, especially, were a total whammy. I can't wait to read more books by Marie Marquardt (and read more about immigration legislation, to be honest) because I've been thoroughly hooked.

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It was eye-opening and educational, while still being entertaining and captivating. This story of Evan, Alma, and their struggle will stick with me for years to come. Definitely preorder this book--you won't regret it.