While You Were Dreaming, by Alisha Rai, (March 2023, Quill Tree Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780063083967
Best-selling romance author Alisha Rai released her debut YA novel, While You Were Dreaming, and it is so good! Sonia is a teen living with her undocumented sister, Kareena, after her mother is deported. Sonia lives in constant fear of her family’s circumstances being discovered, and she tries to make herself as invisible as possible. One day, when her crush, James, accidentally falls and is in danger of drowning, Sonia – in cosplay superhero costume – jumps in to rescue him, becoming a viral sensation. At the same time, Sonia ends up connecting with James’s family, who don’t realize that she’s the person who rescued their son. So is James crush-worthy, or are the sparks flying between Sonia and James’s older brother worth exploring? Readers who love Ms. Marvel and Sendhya Menon’s rom-coms will devour this delightful read. Sonia is a smart, relatable main character surrounded by an interesting, developed cast. Rai touches on the stresses of living undocumented in America by exploring Sonia and Kareena’s sometimes contentious relationship and through Sonia’s desire to remain invisible for her sister’s sake; the pain of living apart from her mother comes through loud and clear. Hand this one to your rom-com fans for sure; they will thank you for it.
We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults, by Susan Kuklin, (Jan. 2019, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763678845
Award-winning author and photographer Susan Kuklin conducted extensive interviews with nine undocumented young adults who all came here as children. They come from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea, and they – and their families – came here for the chance at a better life and education. They fled poverty. They fled violence. They left family behind.
Originally slated for publication in 2017, Susan Kuklin originally planned to feature full-color portraits and the subjects’ names in this book, but the Presidential election and subsequent repeal of DACA, makes it unsafe to identify these young adults. Identified only by a first initial and represented by empty frames, these are hard stories to read. They will move you: they will upset you, they will make you angry, and they will make you feel for the young people who live in the shadows, terrified that at any moment, they’ll be sent away. They’ve crossed through hellish deserts, been taken advantage of by people that were supposed to help them, and turned away by their families in some cases. Working in their communities to bring about positive change, they are here, and they want to be part of the America we know we can be.
We Are Here to Stay offers a lot of food for thought and discussion. These individuals face an uncertain future, and they know it. We Are Here to Stay is a must-read, must-have book for young people everywhere, and it’s a must-read for every person whose lives touch young people: parents, caregivers, educators.
Susan Kuklin is the Stonewall Honor-winning author of Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.