*We received this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Welcome to Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. Liliana Cruz thought her life was fairly ordinary. She went to school and came home to her parents and little brothers. Except, her dad hasn’t been home in a month and her mom won’t say where he is. Then she gets accepted into METCO, a program where inner city students get bused to high-rated suburban schools. Seemingly overnight, Liliana’s world goes upside down. She misses her dad, her best friend and not being a minority at school.
Her new school isn’t terrible, but she hates the weird look and the constant questions. “Where are you from?” is the most common. It doesn’t matter that Liliana was born in Boston or takes French instead of Spanish, a lot of the students are determined to “other” her. Even though her parents immigrated from Guatemala and El Salvador in Central America, Liliana’s Spanish is limited.
Luckily, she meets Dustin, the cute basketball player who wants to get to know Liliana better and Holly, the fiery redhead who doesn’t put up with any BS. But, she feels like she’s pulling away more and more from her old life. Her best friend is never around and then she learns the truth about her dad, he was deported.
With all of these confusing life changes occurring at a pivotal point in time for Liliana, she has to learn how to stay afloat and make her dreams of being a writer come true. It’s a lot for any teenager.
This was a perfect book to read after A Very Large Expanse of Sea. The themes of discrimination were similar, just set in different time periods. Christy really enjoyed the Boston setting because that’s where her family is from. Plus, she knew about the METCO program so she enjoyed learning about it even more and how students feel about it.
Liliana was a great MC. She felt realistic in the way she handled situations. At first, she was intimidated by the new school. However, as time goes on and she’s able to make some friends and her confidence grows. Her writing improves and she’s able to stand up for herself and fellow minority students.
One of our favorite parts of the book was when Liliana and the other METCO students formed a group with their faculty advisory to address any concerns. They came with ways to better the program and to feel heard. Unfortunately, they face a road block when trying to explain to other students discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation. Liliana devises a plan to make sure all students are heard by challenging the students at her school. We don’t want to give away the final result, but it was super creative!
The only thing we didn’t love was how the romance fell flat. Dustin was just a meh character overall who lacked personality.
We loved that the ending had a few happy twists. Everything felt resolved nicely with Liliana, her friends and her family! Overall, if you want to read a diverse YA book, pick up Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and support Liliana as she finds herself. De Leon used her personal experiences in her debut YA book. This is one of the best YA books of summer 2020.