Linda Berati, an eighth grader in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, knows that her parents are Albanian and her little sister American. But what is she? And how did she get to New York? Her parents evade her questions, fueling Linda’s uneasiness about her identity. Only Ramón, a Cuban immigrant her age, seems to understand. Together, they escape to the hideout she and Ramón built. Then a strange, foreign man appears at the hideout, and right away Linda feels connected to him. She soon discovers that Ramón’s wayward brother knows the man, and learns that immigrants – even illegal ones – come to the United States for many reasons. She determines to confront her mother and find out the truth about herself at last.
From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9–With characteristic sensitivity and optimism, Mead presents the struggles of Linda Berati, who seeks to uncover a past that her parents refuse to share. A family-history project at her Brooklyn school emboldens her to confront her hardworking, domineering mother with a demand for answers: why did she flee Albania; how was her face scarred; and why does Linda have recurring nightmares of drowning and suffocation? In addition, her compatibility with her old friends wanes as Donna and Crissy focus on boys, clothes, and social conformity. Linda identifies more with eighth-grade classmate Ramón, a Cuban refugee. After a stranger arrives on the scene, Linda discovers a criminal connection between him and Ramón’s older brother, Miguel. Anxious to help her friend with his family crisis, Linda contacts the police and, at last, shares her worries with her parents. With newfound trust and respect, they finally embrace her desire to enroll in the advanced educational program at a nearby academy. Linda and Ramón’s immigrant families share a determination to survive, to fit in, and to avoid conflict with authorities that might jeopardize their future in America. Through the two main characters, this struggle is personalized and enriched with universal adolescent issues of independence, responsibility, and self-confidence. Realistic dialogue, an engaging plot, and Linda’s roller-coaster emotions effectively counter the unlikely protracted reluctance of the girl’s parents to share their past and Linda’s surprisingly fearless berating of Miguel and his drug-dealing companions. Nonetheless, readers will find this title an informative, empathetic, contemporary portrait of the immigrant experience.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC