Title: Dream Things True
Author: Marie Marquardt
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source: eARC from the Publisher
Evan and Alma have spent fifteen years living in the same town, connected in a dozen different ways but also living worlds apart—until the day he jumps into her dad’s truck and slams on the brakes. The nephew of a senator, Evan seems to have it all—except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two, surrounded by a large – and sometimes smothering – Mexican family. They both want out of this town. His one-way ticket is soccer; hers is academic success. When they fall in love, they fall hard, trying to ignore their differences. Then Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins raids in their town, and Alma knows that she needs to share her secret. But how will she tell her country-club boyfriend that she and almost everyone she’s close to are undocumented immigrants? What follows is a page-turning debut that asks tough questions, reminding us that love is more powerful than fear.
To kick things off, the female MC, Alma, is an undocumented (I love how it was mentioned and thoroughly explained in the novel why illegal is not really the right word to use) immigrant, and the male MC, Evan, is the quintessential American boy next door - rich, an athlete, and from a conservative family, and you just know that they will not have an easy relationship. The attraction is immediate, however, and cannot be ignored - almost as immediate as the backlash the two main characters suffer while attempting to have a relationship. I should also point out that most of Alma's friends and relatives are undocumented immigrants as well, and that Evan's uncle is the senator who is lobbying for deportation laws left and right... add all these to the confusion and complications of any budding relationship and you have a mess.
I initially thought that Alma would only reveal her status to Evan near the climax of the novel - that Alma keeping this important secret will be the backbone of the story - but I'm glad that this was not the case. They were early on in their relationship when Alma told the truth, and I love how Evan listened and asked questions to understand her background. He squashed all judgments, all his preconceived notions, and actually listened. Alma introduced Evan to her friends and family, and Evan was able to actually see them as people, and not just 'illegal immigrants' - the same people whom he has been taught so long ago to avoid and look down on. Their relationship was built on love, trust, and honesty, and it was such a treat to read a realistic, finely-crafted tale of first love.
Being with Alma also encouraged Evan to open his eyes and actually see what was going on in their little town. He saw how all these immigrants were treated as criminals even though they weren't doing anything wrong, and it was clearly showcased that they never get the benefit of the doubt. Evan and his friends simply get slaps on the wrists every time they do something remotely close to breaking the law, but that's not the case for Alma's friends and relatives. Evan starts questioning the system that he grew up in, and once he takes a long, hard look at what he used to look past, well, he didn't like what he saw. Because of Alma, Evan is more aware, and that makes all the difference.
While there were a lot of aspects that made Dream Things True a fantastic read, what I like the most about the book is Alma. I'm not going to lie - it took a while before I warmed up to her character, but once I did, I can't help but be amazed at how strong she is. There are numerous instances in the novel wherein she could've taken the easy way out - wherein she could've relied on other people to save her, but instead, she chose to save herself. She chose to do things her way; she did what she felt was right. Doing all that Alma did took a lot of guts, and I was so so so proud of her!
All in all, Dream Things True is an emotionally-charged read that will make you stop and think. The beginning might be a bit confusing, but read on. I'm pretty sure that you'll end up liking it more than you think you will (just like I did!)
Rating: 3.5 Stars