Migration tales with teens

image of girl with black hair and glasses in jean jacket giving thumbs up inside green circle. box underneath reads Miss Mahee's Booklist. light blue background around white.
Booklists for you

Hi everyone, I hope September is treating you well. Here in New Zealand the cold weather and rains are finally slowing down as spring peeks around the corner. This last week’s post is the last booklist for this month with a selection of reads featuring teenagers as they move across regions in the world. When you’re ready, press the button below…

To begin with I must add that these titles are ones I found especially for this post. As there are many diverse stories out there now, I thought I’d focus on a story which had strong and memorable characters. 

cover image of group of diverse young people at top. orange background. large white letters along bottom reads 'Come on in.'
A fascinating teen anthology

Title: Come on in – 15 stories about immigration and finding home

Edited by Adi Alsaid

Come on in illuminates fifteen of the myriad facets of the immigration experience, from authors who have been shaped by the journeys they and their families have taken from home – and to find home. From some of the most exciting young adult authors writing today, be prepared to journey from Ecuador to New York City and Argentina to Utah, from Australia to Harlem and India to New Jersey, from Fiji, America, Mexico and more. With characters who face random traffic stops, customs anxiety, and the daunting and inspiring journey to new lands, this anthology tells the stories of teen-aged migrants and their experiences!

My review: An amazing collection of stories of immigration, identity and the struggle of being a teenager amidst it all!! To say I traveled  the world would be an understatement as each voice represented a culture different to mine. There are some amazing stories here by some really awesome writers, even a debut writer!! Each one showed me one thing in common though: how much strength, courage and resilience showed by these youngsters to adapt to a new home, language and identity. Awesome read!! 

cover image of rooftops of houses in silhouette. orange sky with dark purple clouds above it. white letters reading 'Where I belong' at top and pink letters reading same just below.
An interesting teen read…

Title: Where I belong

Author: Marcia Argueta Mickelson

In the spring of 2018, Guatemalan American high school senior Milagros “Millie” Vargas knows her life is about to change. She’s lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, ever since her parents sought asylum there when she was a baby. Now a citizen, Millie devotes herself to school and caring for her younger siblings while her mom works as a housekeeper for the wealthy Wheeler family. With college on the horizon, Millie is torn between attending her dream school and staying close to home, where she knows she’s needed. She’s disturbed by what’s happening to asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border, but she doesn’t see herself as an activist or a change-maker. She’s just trying to take care of her own family. Then Mr. Wheeler, a US Senate candidate, mentions Millie’s achievements in a campaign speech about “deserving” immigrants. It doesn’t take long for people to identify Millie’s family and place them at the center of a statewide immigration debate. Faced with journalists, trolls, anonymous threats, and the Wheeler’s good intentions – especially those of Mr Wheeler’s son, Charlie – Millie must confront the complexity of her past, the uncertainty of her future, and her place in the country that she believed was home. 

My review: A really lovely and poignant read of family, friendship, young love and identity!! This story really made me think about the immigrant situation in the US and its impact on young teens like Millie. I enjoyed the high school scenes until she started getting nasty notes. The dynamics between her friendships and her family bonds are clearly described and I love how they layered the story nicely. I thought Millie’s character represented a courageous and compassionate voice of teens of Latinx descent in recent days!! Loved how her romance with Charlie blossomed!! Better for older teens!!

cover image of blue and white lines across with red and yellow flowers along right and left edges. black letters in middle reads 'Something in between.'
An interesting read…

Title: Something in between

Author: Melissa De La Cruz

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full scholarship. And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where – or if – she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

My review: A really lovely teen read!! The themes of displacement, immigration and romance are layered really well in this read!! I enjoyed learning about the Filipino customs and traditions and how families in that culture function. Jasmine and Royce are a lovely couple and their friends and family are nicely described. Although the ending was promising I enjoyed learning about all that Jasmine’s family endured. The storyline flowed really well despite the highly technical legal issues Jasmine’s family faced and it helped me see how tough it must be for such families. I loved the valedictorian speech she gave as well!! An amazing and inspiring read!! 

cover image of small birds on top of cables criss-crossing multicoloured sky. dark letters reads 'Between Us.'
A poignant read

Title: Between us

Author: Clare Atkins

Can two very different teenagers connect despite high barbed-wire fences, cultural differences and a political wilderness between them? Ana is an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. There she meets Jono, who is dealing with his own problems: his mum has walked out, his sister has gone away to uni and he’s been left alone with his Vietnamese father, Kenny. Kenny is trying to work out the rules in his new job as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Center. He tells Ana she should look out for Jono at school but soon regrets this decision: who is she really? As Ana and Jono grow closer, Kenny spirals into mistrust and suspicion… 

My review: Gosh, this book was quite a hard read!! Clearly Atkins had done some intense research to bring this story into this format and her notes at the end feature the statistics of what asylum seekers like Ana face in their reality was quite difficult to comprehend. I had a feeling this book would not have a good outcome but the overall story was gripping and heart-rending. I wasn’t a huge fan of the role drugs and alcohol played in the life of Jono and his friends but having that there encapsulated the relevance of it in their lives. I noticed that Jono’s voice was written in verse to begin with while Ana’s was in prose and towards the climax they both become verse and at the end they had switched. I thought that particular change in pacing really wove the story into an interesting pattern. The message I took from this is that despite your background, everyone deserves to be treated as a human being with dignity and respect. Better for older teens. 

I hope you enjoy these teen reads. Make sure you follow my recommendations and ensure if you are a teacher that you guide your young readers through the mature themes discussed in them. If you have any titles you can recommend, I’d love to hear from you!!

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

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