Thursday, July 07, 2011

Review: Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

From Inside Jacket: When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty - waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Bettina Restrepo’s Illegal is the touching story of one illegal immigrant girl’s journey from Mexico to Texas in search of her father to bring him back home and reunite her family.  

I really admired Nora’s determination to find her father and stand up for herself when she sensed she was being taken advantage of. Occasionally though, I felt she was a bit naïve because it seemed like she thought that she and her mother could easily find her father; and that once he was found, all their problems would be solved. However, this also made Nora very relatable because even as you’re growing up, sometimes you can’t help but wish for life to be simple.

While Restrepo does touch upon the hardships faced by many immigrants, I thought it was portrayed somewhat lightly. Although Nora and her mother faced a gruelling trip crossing the border, – I would have expected nothing less since they are illegals – once they arrived in Texas, they were relatively lucky, securing fake papers and decent paying jobs in a short amount of time. This is not the case for many immigrants. The situation of Arturo, Nora’s father, was portrayed more realistically, and it really makes you think about all the sacrifices illegals must make for the chance of an improved life for themselves and their family.

A solid debut that captures the hopes of those who move to a new country and the obstacles they experience while settling, Illegal was released by Katherine Tegen Books in March 2011.

Comments About the Cover: It matches the tone of the book very well. When I look at the cover, I see a girl standing in an empty field, which portrays the poverty of Cedula, Mexico. She’s looking though at some tall buildings in the distance that she believes her father has helped build; and to me, that represents her dreams of a better tomorrow.


  1. I agree that Nora got off a bit lightly, but I think it balanced what Arturo went through. I'm glad that Bettina shed light for teens about this controversial issue, and showed the human aspect of "illegals"

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books

  2. I haven't read any books with a similar premises to this so I am definitely interesting in giving this a read. Great review :)

  3. I agree with Nic, I haven't read anything like this one before, so that alone makes me want to pick it up. I can't even imagine trying to cross the border into the US and find a way to start a new life knowing at any moment you could be found out and sent back. Really nice review Zahida!

  4. I'm glad to see books like this written. It's a huge issue in our country with so many people who have experienced it. It sounds like an interesting read. I hadn't heard of this one before.

  5. Zahida,

    I live in South Texas, near the border and almost every day on the news there is a story about illegals who died while trying to cross, most because of the heat. It is not easy and it is very hard. I've watch very harsh documentaries which hold no details back when describing the journey, and how dangerous it could be. Women who dare to try often find themselves among men who think nothing of raping, beating, and killing them. It's so heartbreaking because they really did think that they risk they are taking is for a better life and that is rarely the case.

    I've been very curious about this book, and I honestly don't know why I haven't read it yet, possibly because I'm around the RL stories all the time. Nora does sound a bit naive, but like you, I think it is excusable.

    Amazing review. Thanks for sharing it. Sorry I got all rambly.

  6. Oh dear, Missie's comment was very upsetting to read. I guess I'm a bit naive of the reality. It might not have occurred to me, as it did to you, that the hardships portrayed in the book were done so lightly.

  7. Missie, that is truly horrible that that this can still happen!
    I like the sound of this book but l do prefer it when books that are dealing with a hard subject stay true to the subject and don't make something seem easy etc when it isn't

  8. I hear about things like this on the news and I know that it does happen a lot along the US-Mexican border. To read it from the perspective from an illegal would be doubly interesting.

  9. Sounds like they took the optimistic view of more of the best that can happen in these situations. I wonder if many of them are this naive.

    Teens Read and Write


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