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 (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 beautiful, nuanced 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 page-turning debut asks tough questions, reminding us that love is more powerful than fear.
Alma feels like her dreams are over when she has to leave her school in Atlanta and return home to help her family. She dreads going to the local high school even though she does have some friends there. She had plans for her life that have been upended but things look better after she meets Evan. At first Alma tries to keep her distance, especially after she finds out he is related to a senator, but Evan slowly wins her over with coffee and irrepressible charm. Evan's life may seem privileged and perfect but he is struggling under the surface. His parents' marriage is failing though they keep up appearances. Evan has been accompanying his mom to fundraising events for years now instead of his dad. His relationship with Alma makes Evan start to question things about himself and his family and his friends. I really felt for Alma and her situation. She and her brother were brought over from Mexico when they were little (she was still a baby or toddler) and their mom died while trying to cross. Compared to some, her family has been lucky. Her brother goes to community college and Alma's dad has his own lawn care business so they don't have to struggle at the chicken factory where the rest of the family works. Their life also has its downside with the constant threat of deportation and the limitations caused by their illegal status. I think the author does a good job of showing the difficult choices faced by illegal immigrants and the fears and dreams they have. Alma and Evan have a lot of hurdles to overcome to be together. His family doesn't approve of illegals (his uncle is making a political stance against illegal immigration which leads to an increase in raids) and their own different beliefs about life get in the way. Still they both care about each other. I like how supportive he is of her when he finds out the truth and the fact that she didn't keep it a secret from him even though it was very hard to tell. The one issue I had was that their romance started with an instant and very physical attraction on Evan's side. The reader is constantly reminded of Alma's attractiveness to him. I think this is an important book to read and it increases readers' awareness of the issue of illegal immigration and the challenges faced by those who want to come to America to make a better life. This is a timely topic especially with the upcoming elections and various candidates' platforms. The author doesn't shy away from the hard truths about illegal immigration and even the ending doesn't give us everything neatly wrapped up. I appreciated that and the way she humanizes the issue with her portrayal of these characters. There aren't easy answers just like in real life. I had a few problems with the book. One problem was the behavior of an immigration lawyer and the advice she gives. I thought it didn't sound like something a real lawyer would ever say or do. I also wondered at times about the portrayal of Mexican culture and its authenticity and if perhaps the author was giving in to the stereotype of the "curvy Latina" when describing Alma and her relatives and friends. It just seemed like it was mentioned a lot and in one scene Evan sees her in a revealing swimsuit and gives her a shirt to cover up, mostly because he doesn't want other guys to see her like that. Mrs. King is also upset when she finds out about Alma dating Evan, stating that there are a higher number of Latina teens who get pregnant and have babies (because they are Catholic they don't get abortions). I thought that was judgmental and unfair and Mrs. King is usually a more open minded and reasonable character. Overall however I liked Dream Things True and Alma especially. I found her easy to relate to as a character and I admired her courage. For me the positives of the novel outweighed the negatives. I would suggest this book to readers who like contemporary fiction that deals with realistic issues and fans of star-crossed romance. I will say that this book seems to be polarizing to readers so if you're not sure if this is the book for you, try to get it from your local library. Another similar book that I recommend is Joyride by Anna Banks which features an American born daughter of illegal immigrants who have been deported and are trying to find a way back. Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley