Dreams Things True was a laborious read for me. I had a hard time staying engaged, but there certainly will be an audience for this modern take on star-crossed lovers.
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.
This book had a lot of things going for it, but it just wasn’t as engaging as I wanted. Dream Things True puts a human face on the controversial topic of illegal immigration in America, and it presents a fair view of the issue from many perspectives. Both Alma and Evan are likeable characters and their Romeo and Juliet relationship will be a draw for many YA romance readers. Alma is a character who works hard and makes sacrifices for her future and her family, and there is a lot to admire about her journey. Her character’s experiences certainly work towards breaking down some of the stereotyping readers might have about the average undocumented resident. There is enough conflict and drama to keep the story moving along at a fairly consistent pace. I think my biggest problem was the third person point of view. It resulted in a lot of telling instead of showing. I encountered several passages that felt stilted as a result. One of the most glaring was when Evan first sat down with his uncle and instead of allowing readers to draw inferences about their relationship, readers were given what felt like a straight informational paragraph out of an English grammar exercise. Several times, character’s thoughts were used to give a lot of information at one time as well, which had the same stilted feel. I understand the need to get information to readers, but it didn’t feel like a natural presentation of ideas and it always popped me out of the story when it happened. I also think this point of view created too much distance between readers and the main characters. I didn’t personally relate to either Alma or Evan, and it would have been easier for me to feel connected to them if they had shared the narrative as dual first person perspectives. The addition of untranslated Spanish conversations will be a problem for many readers as well. My rudimentary skills weren’t up to the task of translating all of it, so I sometimes felt left out – I think it was authentic to include those lines of dialogue, and for the right audience, it will be perfect, but for me – it created more distance. I think there is an audience who will certainly relate to this book, but I think if you are not someone with some connection to Alma’s culture and experience it just isn’t as compelling.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.