Book Title Dream Things True
Author: Marie Marquardt
Number of pages: 352
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.
(re: Goodreads @ Dream Things True – Marie Marquardt)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
— Set in Georgia (USA) and encompasses POC (Mexican) families, undocumented immigrants, race and discrimination, power and privilege, drugs, rape, and exoticism, among others
— Narrative is told in sporadic alternating perspectives between both MCs; writing integrates Spanish dialogue
— The romance jumps the gun; a bit instalust-y after a few chapters
— If you’ve seen “The Proposal” (with Bullock/Reynolds), it feels like a toned down YA version of that
— An important diverse read with revelations that seem a bit easy but speaks to the concern of white privilege; it’s a bit of a toss-up in terms of enjoyment
Dream Things True is a very difficult book to review.
Full disclosure: I received an advanced reader copy of Dream Things True through Netgalley for an honest review. I extend thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me with the opportunity to review this book.
Dream Things True follows the tug-o-war between Evan’s life of privileged expectations pulled against Alma, who lives apprehensively on borrowed time. A chance encounter forces the pair to take pause on their journey in opposite directions only to face the reality shackling them to their heritage, family, community, and to each other as Immigration and Customs Enforcement looms in the distance.
The town of Gilberton, Georgia sets the stage for the exploration of: POC (Mexican) families, undocumented immigrants, exoticism, race and discrimination, the balance of power (e.g. White supremacy), date-rape drugs, privilege, and a sound perspective of the immaterial The American Dream.
This book debuts during an important time as events sweep across America. It gives a voice to each community (e.g. coloured skin and otherwise) as if they were characters in their own right.
Not only that, it’s an important book for Canadians (like myself). For those unfamiliar with the recent Bill C-24, it commoditized citizenship; opening tiered class definitions, and essentially allows easier grounds for revoking. It plainly marginalizes demographics that weren’t naturally born in Canada to essentially say “be good or there’s the door”. To know that you can wake up and your family has to peace out? It’s unreal.
This is not so different from what Alma struggles with. It opens a sincere dialogue to engage two cornerstone issues of racial discrimination and privilege glorifying the scorched divide in a Southern community. By reinforcing a “them versus us” culture, the struggle experienced by antagonized stakeholders and those coming into their own with their earned birthright is reflective of societies today.
When a story is in multi-POVs (in this case: two), it would have been nice for there to be some sort of indication—whether it’s a new chapter or just a subheading—stating the difference in voice. It wasn’t irksome to the point that I wasn’t able to follow along but with [multiple] changes in POVs within one chapter, the only indication was a break in the paragraph.
But speaking to the writing, a good way to emphasize disparity is to juxtapose the personality of high life with a cesspool of dirt—one after another—in the same chapter. The writing in this story points two very different pairs of eyes at the same problems; providing visible coverage through different scopes. Marquardt doesn’t sugar coat dialogue or conflict; even the ending is bit of a rational downer. What matters is that things just are. The smaller conflicts that tie Alma to Evan make sense but it isn’t realized in a way I’m personally optimistic about.
I mean, yeah, [white] communities can get a pass with a slap on the wrist but while that’s telling of the power structure, it reiterates to the voiceless that nobody is on their side; that hope is futile. And even if Evan carries that light in the darkness; he is an outlier through and through. So of the events and conflicts that come and go, fear and ignorance is what becomes perpetuated; that sheep will be sheep and there’s nothing that can be done—even if it feels incredibly wrong to those reading this book. This doesn’t even discount the potential of exploring PTSD caused by association to the shroud of negativity around these characters. This is what was missing for me.
However, I particularly enjoyed Marquardt integrating Spanish in the dialogue and thought processes within her family. It provided a genuine touch that really gave body to the story because if you’re familiar with a language, there are better ways to say certain phrases in your native tongue rather than in English.
Let me just say that the remarks by one douchey character will surely make you want to destroy him and witness karmic relief toward his family. Also, speaking to Evan’s parents however, the whole “let me just 180-degree flip because now I know this person is undocumented” is just so tedious…so fucking tedious.
Seen time and time again: why is it that most affluent, upper-class families give no fucks to their kids? It’s as if it’s a non-issue and they’ve accepted that their kids will do them right and live up to the family name. I mean, yeah, Evan is the standard “different” wild child of the bunch but all of his friends are doing and saying whatever for shits and giggles. I’m obviously overlooking the fact that these kids have an invincibility complex protected by the gleam of white privilege (yes, there are scenes where popo’s show up and it’s like “must be the kid with the coloured skin!”). But minors are still minors and this story is filled with one-dimensional families living out their snobby, money-throwing archetype.
Honestly, I think this story would have worked a lot better if Alma and Evan experienced a slow burn of friendship. The romance itself grazed the line of exoticism; where charm and attraction formed the basis of instalust. This was compounded by the fact that one party hypersexualized the other and was simply more invested. Was their relationship cute? It was fluff and lacks authenticity when they go from 0-to-100 within the first four chapters. So to think that their relationship is paramount to driving the plot is a bit of a misstep as it reads unconvincingly flat.
The best characters in this story are those allies who provide not only a voice of reason but a shoulder to lean on. Whit and Mrs. King deserve praise for being self-aware and present because these characters are what [I find] this generation is gravitating towards: resilient, informed, and vocal individuals.
The intent and storytelling choices made throughout Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt create concerns—not problems—as the pages were easily devoured. Do I think that the story is representative of the cultural struggles in America? Yep. But do I think that this story provokes and inspires concrete change? Hard to say.
See: Marquardt’s approach is very “this is how it has been and this is how it is”. She writes a story that isn’t truly uplifting in the redemptive sort of way—to know that change is forthcoming; where “goodness” prevails. No, no, no.
Dream Things True is quintessentially a reminder that though racial prejudice occurs; life continues its next breath. That marginalizing a community is an effortless non-issue existing on the lines drawn by privilege and comfort. Where novel concepts like school, friends, activities, and love become self-aware of its own racially profiled boundaries to not shake the pillars of choice where there isn’t any. It is “business as usual”; an unfiltered story about life in America visualized through a modern Romeo and Juliet.
It is a story that happens; again and again, and again, ultimately bearing the fruit: what will you do?
Oh diverse reads, why you gotta make awarding 3/5 feel so weird?