Don't Ask Me Where I'm From (YA Reviews)

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hi everyone! I hope you're all doing well. I'm just going to get into this review without much preamble because!! In case you can't tell!! From the exclamation marks!!! I'm excited!! Whenever I think about this book, I just want to throw my hands in the air and scream "YASS" at the top of my lungs because, well, YASS! I really loved Liliana's story, and I think you will too. 

Tags: YA Contemporary, Boston!, immigration, deportation, racism, discrimination, "token" of diversity 
Age Recommended: 12+ 

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.

There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.

There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.

And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.

So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.
But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight. 

My Thoughts: 

Things I loved:
1. Attention to detail! I would be in complete disbelief if Jennifer De Leon told me she wasn't a plotter. Seriously. The attention to detail is magnificent. This story is like a puzzle that falls into place the farther you read. I loved learning little bits and having conflict introduced subtly. The feeling of impending doom definitely felt like we were tiptoeing into a haunted house in that expecting the scares didn't really help at all muffle my fear. In this case, knowing the conflict was coming didn't make it hurt any less when it did. I was absolutely wonderful.

Also, I can't noT mention the allusions to Boston! As someone who, surprise surprise, lives in Boston, I can vouch for the truth in her descriptions. I absolutely loved that detail. It really brought the whole story together for me!

2. Characters and their relationships! I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I'd die for Liliana. I'll even take a moment here to talk about why I love her. Liliana isn't perfect. Her life isn't perfect. Her dad's missing and she has to carry the burden of her shadow of a mother and life is hard. Life is hard and things hurt but she doesn't let it get to her head. I love that about Liliana. She gets kicked down time after time after time, but never does she let her struggles stop her from fighting for what she knows is right.

To talk a little about relationships, I was immediately using my villain radar to try and figure out who the antagonists were. I predicted one of them, but De Leon does an excellent job fostering doubt. I definitely was on the edge of my seat or clutching my chest at certain moments because heartbreak and betrayal are hurtful even when you're bracing yourself for them.

De Leon does an excellent job of making her characters emotionally compelling and relatable to the reader. I have no choice but to stan!

Things I didn't love:
1. If I had to criticize anything about this book, it'd be like sometimes, not at all frequently, the narrator would sound a bit...childish? Jennifer De Leon is obviously an adult writing from a teenager's point of view, so cringy-ness is to be expected at times. That said, it doesn't detract from the story all that much, unless you're reading as critically as I am, haha. I was usually more captivated by the story anyhow, and that's a good thing! Good writing means that you notice the story, not the writing. :)

Final Verdict:

Would I recommend this book?
YES - If you're looking for a book to educate yourself on immigration, racism, and what happens when you become a "token" for diversity, or if you're just looking for something to do for funsies, but want to read something that's emotionally compelling and extremely relevant to today's issues.
NO - I'm not going to even go here. Read the book.

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