Dream Things True: Review + Interview + Video Clip + Giveaway

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (Twitter Facebook)
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley
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A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

I’ve read several books that have Latin American protagonists, but never have I ever read a book where the story deals with illegal Latin American immigrants. This topic isn’t one that is new to me, but it’s definitely new to me in the sense that I’ve never really read any accounts, real or fictional, of characters going through what Alma and her family do in Dream Things True. This was a strong, powerful read. At first I was a bit skeptical because this book’s blurb calls it “a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story,” which turned me off a little bit because insta-love is definitely not my thing. But I definitely wanted to read it for the larger story rather than the romance because this IS an important issue and what better way to learn about something than learn it through a YA novel?

Alma and Evan both had their flaws, but it was totally realistic because it added an edge to the novel on top of the larger problems and conflict. However, what I didn’t enjoy too much was the focus on the romance. This was the only problem I had with the novel, because otherwise it was very well-written and I enjoyed the story very much (and more importantly, learned a lot from it!). I get that it’s YA and being crazy hormonal teenagers we crave some action between the love interests. But when that completely takes over the story and creates a detour for Alma, where her biggest concern for most of the book seemed to be about being with Evan when she clearly has much bigger problems, was when I thought the book should steer back on course before it’s too late. Obviously, this does happen, but I just wish that the book hadn’t strayed away from what it’s really trying to tell us.

There’s some Spanish spoken in this book, and it was a little difficult for me to understand some parts, because I don’t speak Spanish at all (although French did help a teensy bit). However, I love how authentic it made the book. I hate it when books just focus on English and think by throwing in a word here and there in a different language when the characters are CLEARLY bilingual, etc., so this was really excellently done in terms of bringing in more cultural flavour as well as making this a more realistic read.

I didn’t expect a happy ending, but I’m absolutely more than happy with what I got. Dream Things True was poignant and moving–Marie Marquardt clearly has done her research because I took away so much from her debut novel. I definitely can’t wait to read what she has coming next–anything to learn more about different backgrounds and larger conflicts in our world today is a must-read for me. I’m really looking forward to it!

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Marie Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University's Candler School of Theology and the author of Living Illegal: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration. She is widely published on issues of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. South. Marquardt has also worked as an advocate among immigrants in Atlanta. She is a founder and  co-chair of El Refugio, a hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Dream Things True is Marie's first young adult novel.

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“In this YA debut, immigration activist Marquardt knowledgably takes on the plight of undocumented families in the U.S. Readers seeking a star-crossed love story with a twist won’t be disappointed.” —Publishers Weekly

“Various aspects of undocumented immigration are explored: the economic factors influencing the decision to come to the United States, the often harrowing journey, the exploitation upon arrival, and the political factors that influence policy… [A] worthy examination of undocumented immigration in the American South through the lens of young love.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Marquardt provides a critical view of the stigmas and difficulties plaguing undocumented youth in U.S. schools without glossing over the legal realities of deportation and detainment.” —School Library Journal

“Marquardt's Dream Things True vividly weaves to life the thrill of falling in love in the South while awakening readers to the struggles of US-Mexican immigration policies. In this touching coming-of-age story, full of hope and possibilities, Marquardt captures the bittersweet world of undocumented teens living in the US and the power of true love.” 
Malin Alegria, author of Estrella’s Quinceañera and the Border Town series

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt is a story that must be told and needs to be read.  With sensitivity and care, Marquardt deftly illustrates the struggles and hopes of Alma, an undocumented teenager living in the United States.  Alma's story reflects the lives of millions of young people trapped between countries and cultures, longing for a place to belong.  An important story that's full of heart, it will forever change the way you view those who live their lives in the shadows.” —Jennifer Mathieu, author of The Truth About Alice

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with Marie Marquardt

As this is your debut novel, what was the road to publishing like?

Long, arduous, and involving many dead-ends. It took me about three years to write this book (I kept having to put it down to do other things, like have babies and write academic books). Then it took me another four years to see it in print. If I didn’t care so much about this story, I would have given up a long time ago. I’m very glad that I didn’t give up.

Why did you decide to write for a young adult audience?

I knew that I wanted to tell the story of an immigrant DREAMer, since I have worked with many over the years, and their stories have had a profound impact on me.  DREAMers are young adults who were brought to the United States as children without legal status and, currently, they have no way to get permanent legal status. I wanted the book to be not only about them, but also for them and the non-immigrant teenagers they are growing up with. So, I decided to write it as a YA novel.  This was an easy decision, since I love to read contemporary YA. 

What was the most challenging thing when it came to writing DREAM THINGS TRUE?

Well, here’s a little confession: I have never played an organized sport. I mean, never.  So the hardest part of getting this story onto paper was not writing the heart-wrenching love scenes. It was writing the soccer scenes (and don’t even get me started on golf!). I spent days reading sports journalism, and then, after attempting to write realistic scenes, I relied heavily on my sister—a soccer fanatic—to make sure all the players were in the right place at the right time. 

DREAM THINGS TRUE is called “a modern-day Romeo and Juliet”–how much of Shakespeare’s play has influenced your novel?

I have read the play many times (and I love the Leonardo & Claire movie version!). I do run with the basic premise, but I don’t think that the play’s influence runs terribly deep. Evan and Alma fall for each other fast, to be sure, but not as lightening-fast as Romeo and Juliet.  They are “star-crossed” in the sense of having fate (in the form of social norms and laws) working against them. And there is a really awful bad guy in the story, who is sort-of like a Tybalt. But Alma is much more savvy than Juliet, and Evan definitely is way less dramatic and impulsive than Romeo! 

Also, and most importantly, this is a story about many kinds of love, not just romantic love.  It’s about a son’s love for his mother, even when she’s emotionally distant. It’s about a sister’s love for her brother, even when he makes choices she disagrees with. It’s about the love we have for friends who do the unthinkable, but then seek our forgiveness. Love runs deep and broad in this story. 

What was the research process like for your book?

I have been working for almost two decades with Latin American immigrants as a researcher, advocate, and service provider. I’ve spent time in many Southern immigrant communities, on the U.S. – Mexico border, and in some of the small Mexican and Central American towns that immigrants have come from.  So, the research process was long and complex. I wanted to be sure that the legal aspects of the story were accurate. Immigration law is insanely complex, and I wanted to get it right. I interviewed several immigration attorneys and paralegals, and I had them read through drafts.

What can’t you write without, and what are your writing conditions like?

I need quiet, which is not an easy thing for a mother of four to obtain. I wrote almost all of Dream Things True between four-thirty and six-thirty in the morning. It’s a great time of day, with many fewer e-mails and tweets and Facebook posts breaking into the stillness. Writing during this timeframe requires much caffeine, though. I spend a lot of money on coffee.

Who or what made you want to become an author? Who are some of the authors that inspire you?

I wanted to tell this story, because I believed it was such an important story. In the process of writing and editing it, I discovered that I love this work – it feeds me – and I feel like I have more stories to tell.  So I will keep writing them.

There are so many fabulous authors of Young Adult contemporary fiction. I am awed by some of them (e.g. Rainbow Rowell, Matt de la Peña, and Jandy Nelson) because they are such astoundingly good writers.  Others inspire me because they are telling stories that are so important, and they are committed to writing for young adults because they want to open space for dialogue about tough issues. I am thinking here of the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson, Jenny Downham (You Against Me is one of my favorite books of all time), and Meg Medina, who is so thoughtful about the role of authors in civil society, and about our responsibility to encourage conversation and community building. 

What can we expect from you next?

I am working on another YA contemporary novel, which should be out with St Martin’s in the Fall of 2016. It’s also a love story, framed by the issue of gang-related violence in Central America – and kids fleeing that violence to travel on foot through Mexico and enter the United States. I’ve been working with Central American asylum seekers for a few years now. They also have some incredible – and incredibly heartbreaking – stories to tell.  I want to help those stories be heard.

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I also have an awesome video clip of Marie Marquardt to share!

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Giveaway time!
Enter to win...

A copy of Dream Things True!

US and CANADA only.
Must be 13+ to enter.
This is a publisher-sponsored giveaway: I am not responsible for any lost/damaged packages.
This giveaway will run until the 24th of September (ends at 11:59 pm).
Only I and the publishers will see your mailing address.

Enter via the Rafflecopter below!

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Thank you so much to Marie Marquardt for answering my questions and to Michelle at St. Martin’s Press for having me on the blog tour!


  1. I want to read Dream Things True because I am a huge fan of contemporary and this sounds like a wonderful read!

  2. I love retellings of Romeo and Juliet.

  3. I love it too when a different language is incorporated with the novel. Although I hope there was some sort of translation?

    I look forward to her 2016 novel, that sounds timely, controversial, and very much my cuppa

  4. As much as I love romance I don't like it when characters act like their love is the most important thing when it really isn't. But I'm really glad you enjoyed Dream Things True and I'm looking forward to reading it :) Great review!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf


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