The Secret Side of Empty

The Secret Side of Empty

by Maria E. Andreu


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A Junior Library Guild Selection, 2014
A Junior Library Guild Selection, 2014
A School Library Journal Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.'s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

With senior year of high school kicking into full swing, M.T. sees her hopes for a “normal” future unraveling. And it will take discovering a sense of trust in herself and others for M.T. to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience to tell a story that is timely, relevant, and universally poignant.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762451920
Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers
Publication date: 03/11/2014
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: HL610L (what's this?)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Maria E. Andreu is a writer and speaker whose work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post,, and the Newark Star Ledger. The Secret Side of Empty is her debut novel. Maria is a proud mother of two and an adoptive mother to various furry creatures. She was born in Spain, lived in Argentina for two years, and crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. at the age of eight. An American citizen due to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Maria currently lives in New Jersey. You can visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

“I am like the blot test of heritage: people see what they want to see in me.”

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The Secret Side of Empty 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
M. T. should be living a fairy tale story of a life. To everyone else it probably seems like she is with her good grades that can make her Valedictorian, the trip she is organizing for the National Honor Society, and her picture perfect best friend with her good looks and fancy house. M. T. even looks the part with her blonde hair and light complexion. The only problem is that the story is a lie. M. T. is an undocumented immigrant--the same as her mother and father. It was easy to blend in before. But now the future is uncertain. M. T. isn't sure what happens next except that it probably won't include college or anything resembling a happy family. With everything starting to unravel M. T. is lost and unsure how to find her way back in The Secret Side of Empty (2014) by Maria E. Andreu. The Secret Side of Empty is Andreu's first novel. It draws on her own experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant in America. This debut is an important novel that shines a light on an aspect of American life that few people rarely see. M. T. is in a desperate position caught between the country where she legally belongs and the country that has been home for most of her life. Andreu expertly captures the push and pull M. T. feels between thinking of herself as an American and the underlying reason she knows she is nothing like her American friends. This already multi-layered story is further complicated with M. T.'s troubled home life and her own drastic plan for coping. The Secret Side of Empty is a compelling and timely read as well as a much needed addition to the larger conversation about the immigrant experience. Possible Pairings: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Drown by Junot Diaz, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, A Step From Heaven by An Na, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys *This book was acquired for review from the publisher*
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Monserrat Thalia, MT is a senior in high school. Things are going well for her. She has great friends, a first boyfriend, and things seem to be going well for her. But she has a secret that she can’t tell anyone. She is an undocumented immigrant from Argentina. This means getting her drivers license, past port, or even going to college don’t look to be in her future. But that’s just the beginning. Things just seem to keep getting worse and piling up around her. I loved this book. It talks about a touchy subject, illegal immigration. And with all the events in the news recently, this book came out at the perfect time. Usually when you talk about illegal immigration everyone seems to jump up and scream go home, we don’t want you here, you are a drain on society. But there is more to it than just that aspect and this book brings the other side to the light. And for being such a major topic you would think that there would be more books that talk about immigration. MT is a great kid but she has all this pressure on her and no one to turn to. Along with the normal teenage stuff here she has her family and being undocumented. I got sucked in to the book and wrapped up with MT’s life. When she finally opens up, I was crying right along with her. This is a must read for anyone, it’s one that should be required reading. Go, get this book, you will not be disappointed. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
She lived within herself, she was just waiting for the moment where her world would come crashing down. M.T. was a complex person, from the outside she was just like you and me but inside she was ready to explode, living with the day-by-day pressures ticking away. I admired M.T., she held her head up high, excelled in school, was a great role model for others and she held her tongue in situations where I knew I wouldn’t had been able to. Her parents came to this country to make money, hoping to return to Argentina to start a business and what started out as temporary was starting to look permanent. Without proper identification, her father can’t get a high paying job and must work for cash. The family barely gets by. Father is a strict authoritative figure, using verbal and physical acts to stress his points; it’s a stressful situation at home. That alone is enough for any senior student to handle: having to deal with a father who can’t control his anger, a younger brother who adores her but must live with the horrors within the family walls and mother who stands by her man yet weeps. M.T.’s family are also living as illegal immigrates. Her father, with his hideous, heart-piercing words has instilled fear into their hearts about their status. His constant reminders have the family in a permanent state of despair and anxiety. As other students talk about their future after high school, M.T. knows she won’t have a future as she has no status in the U.S., she can go no further. She’s doomed. Chelsea, her best friend reaches out to her but M.T. pushes back, there is no alternative. With her first boyfriend talking about future plans, M.T. can’t see the future and lashes out at him. Everything is falling apart, her world that had a great future has been destroyed and her father has won. It was so sad, it is as if she dying, as if she had no other options, as if all she had done was for nothing. M.T. has to see what she is throwing away before it all dissolves in front of her, there has to be options for her but what or who can wake her up to the fact. Wow, I couldn’t this book down. Such a powerful read for me with M.T. and her secrets which she was trying to hide from her friends and the people around her. Individuals were trying to reach out to her but she couldn’t talk to them for fear that they would turn her into the authorities and the fear of what her friends might think of her. She didn’t want anyone to know about her situation at home either; she was truly living two different lives. She was the girl living inside her house and a different girl outside their front door. When the end of the school year came around and she started to get hopeless and upset, I was afraid how far she would push her anger. I hoped her father’s rage wouldn’t appear. When she confronts her father, I applauded her, she needed to do it. The ending, it’s not a happily ever after but it probably is reality. “How do you explain to someone that you are so horrible and useless that your own father despises you?”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alyssa75 More than 1 year ago
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu Publisher: Running Press Kids Publication Date: March 11, 2014 Rating: 4 stars Source: Review copy sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.  But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants. Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant. What I Liked: Wow. I just finished this book and... wow. What an incredible story. This novel hits so many hot issues in today's society, including immigration, child abuse, and suicide. This novel was kind of personal, for me, because both of my parents came her as immigrants, and while they lived with green cards, they weren't legal citizens until about ten years ago. I was born in the U.S., so of course I couldn't fully relate to M.T.'s story, but it was truly touching. M.T. and her family are illegally living in the United States - I suppose with the exception of her little brother, Jose, who was born in the United States. M.T.'s father wants to move the family to Argentina, but saving money is difficult when you can't get a good job that pays well. M.T.'s academic life is stellar - until it isn't. Her social life takes a leap with a boyfriend, but then crashes. Everything is coming apart, and M.T. has to decide what is important and what she needs to do. This is quite the roller-coaster year for M.T. It begins at the end of her junior year and the end of her secondary education (not telling how that ends...). She dodges the college questions, the what-do-you-what-to-do-with-your-life questions, the driving tests, EVERYTHING, left and right, to avoid bringing about anything that has to do with being a citizen of the U.S. (which is a lot - basically everything). Her relationship with Chelsea (her best friend) slowly becomes strained, as Chelsea feels like M.T. is pushing her away. M.T.'s family life is pretty bad. Her father is constantly angry and hits her, her mother is passive, and her little brother is sheltered from all the anger and hate. I really felt for M.T. in the situations involving her father - I would have called the police from the first incident. Physical/emotional vs. possible deportation? I'll take the *possible* deportation. Things get worse and worse, on the family end, especially with her father's shaky job and her mother's insistence on M.T. going to a private school M.T. gets a boyfriend pretty quickly into the story, and I actually really like the guy. M.T. has some serious trust issues, which is totally sad because she doesn't trust the guy, but she is the one that acts shady, in my opinion. Which is totally justified, but still, don't be a hypocrite about it. I liked how the romance worked in this book, because it's very realistic. M.T.'s reaction to having a first boyfriend and clinging to him so much is warranted, so I feel like the direction the romance took is a really smart and natural one. The story is so well-constructed, in my opinion. It takes us through M.T.'s reactions to the growing pressures of being illegal, of continuing to keep up pretenses, of going to school and keeping up grades and so on. I wanted to know what M.T. would do, day after day, and when it reached a certain point, I expected the instinctual reaction - suicide. It was heartbreaking to know that M.T. had come to that conclusion one time (or more). One thing that I liked about the structure of the story in particular was that it switches at times, between present and past. The "past" is introduced more as memories, so it's not obviously stated that we're going into M.T.'s past. I love this, because it's subtle, but very informative. Random note: don't you love the play on words? M.T. - "Empty"? I thought that was clearly. I noticed it before reading it in the book. I like quirky things like that. Overall, I'm really happy that I gave this book a chance, but I really liked it. M.T.'s personal journey really resonated with me. I can't ever imagine being her situation, living with that fear. This is such a beautifully crafted debut!  What I Did Not Like: I actually don't have anything specific to say in this section. Why 4 stars and not 5 stars, then? It's another one of those novels that FEELS like a 4-star-read to me, instead of 5 stars. I can't exactly explain my rationale. But that doesn't mean that I had a problem with the book or that I didn't love it or that I wouldn't recommend it. This was an excellent book! Would I Recommend It: I think I would classify this book as a "tough-issues" book, because of the subject matter (immigration). M.T.'s story is incredible, but I know that these types are not for everyone. In fact, even I was hesitant to accept a review copy, because I don't usually read these types of books. Which is actually funny because I've read three in the last week, I believe. WELL. I generally stay away from "tough-issue" books because they make me sad. This was a wonderful type of sad, and I'm really glad I read this book. Rating: 4 stars. This was a touching, moving novel! I really enjoyed it, and I would highly recommend it especially to those interested in the topic of immigration. This is a fantastic debut!