You know those books which are emotionally compelling? That just demand to be read? That was me and Everything Within and In Between. It’s a story about family, addiction, and identity. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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 always pushed Ri away from the neighborhood they call home and toward her best friend’s world of mansions and country clubs in the hopes that it’ll bring Ri closer to achieving the “American Dream.”
In her most private thoughts, Ri has always believed that her mother, who disappeared when she was young, would accept her exactly how she is. So when Ri finds a secret unanswered letter from her mom begging for a visit, Ri decides to reclaim what her grandma kept from her: a language and a mother. But nothing goes as planned. Her mom isn’t who Ri imagined she would be. And Ri’s struggling to navigate the different interweaving threads of her mixed heritage that make her who she is. Nobody has any idea of who Ri really is—not even Ri, herself.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: racism, colorism
Everything Within and In Between begins with a letter. It begins with a search for answers, with questions that you can never put to rest. But what it kicks off is a gripping and difficult journey to examine ourselves and our family. To take a look at the microaggressions we’ve been victim to while also examining our own actions and prejudices. That because Ri is white passing, her life is different than her classmates and her family. And while this has caused her to feel disconnected from her culture, it’s equally important to look at why.
Ri’s struggles with her identity, as well as how she has to realize that assimilation meant survival, is a coping mechanism in some ways, was so emotional. Everything Within and In Between is nuanced. It examines both the positives and consequences. The ones even we might not be aware of in our lives. Because it takes the form of the weight of the sacrifices of our family for our future. It takes the form of the prejudices we never have to experience, as well as the ones people can never anticipate.
Everything Within and In Between is not only about how people perceive us, it’s about how we see ourselves. About acknowledging how the world sees us, and what we will do. Along this discussion of identity, Ri’s story is full of secrets and family which chooses us. Because the family that continuously chooses us, which proves it’s more than genes in our name, is so important. Everything Within and In Between is emotional to the core from start to finish. I can’t recommend it more highly for those who want characters who makes mistakes and have to question themselves.
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