cover image The Secret Side of Empty

The Secret Side of Empty

Maria E. Andreu. Running Press, $16.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7624-5192-0

In her first novel, Andreu examines immigration from a distinctive angle through the story of Monserrat Thalia, aka M.T., whose family illegally immigrated to New Jersey from Argentina when she was a baby. Now it's her senior year, and the bright future she's imagined for herself is threatened by her abusive, embittered father, who's determined to return to their homeland. Lacking the support of her mother, M.T. grows angry and depressed, keenly aware of the wide gap between her resources and opportunities (she often comes home to find the electricity shut off) and those of her wealthy peers, including her best friend Chelsea and first love Nate. The threat of deportation, a confused sense of ethnic identity, and painfully low self-esteem ead M.T. to thoughts of suicide. The author addresses the logistical, economic, and psychological hurdles faced by many immigrants, including attaining a driver's license, having to turn to under-the-table work, and fighting stereotypes. M.T's immediate, jaundiced, and worldly perspective is eye-opening and wrenching, particularly when it comes to how she weighs her own worth as a human being. Ages 13%E2%80%93up. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Mar.)