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YA Review: Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess

Title: Everything Within and In Between

Author: Nikki Barthelmess

Year Published: 2021

Category: YA fiction
Pages: 336
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary (from Amazon): For Ri Fernández’s entire life, she’s been told, “We live in America and we speak English.” Raised by her strict Mexican grandma, Ri has never been allowed to learn Spanish.

What’s more, her grandma has pulled Ri away from the community where they once belonged. In its place, Ri has grown up trying to fit in among her best friend’s world of mansions and country clubs in an attempt try to live out her grandmother’s version of the “American Dream.”

In her heart, Ri has always believed that her mother, who disappeared when Ri was young, would accept her exactly how she is and not try to turn her into someone she’s never wanted to be. So when Ri finds a long-hidden letter from her mom begging for a visit, she decides to reclaim what Grandma kept from her: her heritage and her mom.

But nothing goes as planned. Her mom isn’t who Ri imagined she would be and finding her doesn’t make Ri’s struggle to navigate the interweaving threads of her mixed heritage any less complicated. Nobody has any idea of who Ri really is—not even Ri herself.

Review: I was in the mood for a good YA and reading one of Nikki's books is a guarantee for that. I thoroughly enjoyed her previous two books (Quiet No More and The Quiet We Carry) and this novel did not disappoint. There is so much good stuff going on in this novel from a story that sucked me in from the start, to characters I cared about to issues of identity. 

The novel is set in my town, which is fun, and centers on friendship and family. Which friends we keep, which friends fall by the wayside, and which ones come back are all dealt with by the main character. I liked that it seemed real and made me think back to my own high school days and the drama between friends as we navigated adolescence. The family issues are also so well done. How long do we hold on to family members who are unhealthy for themselves and us, how much can we forgive and forget?

The main character is also struggling with issues of identity. She passes for white and doesn't speak Spanish. What does that mean for her? For her friend choices? Even her academics. One of the important things she learns is that she is not alone in her struggles and that being open to others will help her through. While this book could have been a doom and gloom story with all the heavy issues, it is not. 

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Diversity

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