Where I Belong

Carolrhoda Lab. Sept. 2021. 264p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781541597976.
Gr 9 Up–Millie Vargas, who would rather observe the behavior of sea turtles in their natural habitat, takes care of three younger siblings after school (and whenever she is needed), while her mother works for a high-powered Corpus Christi family, the Wheelers. When Mr. Charles Wheeler, a Senate hopeful, reveals some personal details of his “model immigrant” housekeeper’s family at a protest against the separation of children from their families at the border, Millie’s family is trolled online and become the target of a hate crime. Millie navigates her anger at the Wheeler family, who are privileged enough to openly protest injustice without fear, while slowly developing a crush and falling in love with the oldest son, Charlie, and preparing to tell her mother that she has received a full scholarship at a top college and will be leaving home. Mickelson, who, like Millie, immigrated from Guatemala as an infant, has crafted an analytical and emotionally charged first-person narrative, and explores with a deft and wise hand the complexities of a budding relationship with a person of a different class and the conflict between upward mobility and family loyalty. The perspicacious eyes and heart of Millie, who respects her hardworking mother and mourns her father, who died too young, bring the reader in touch with an honorable family who defy stereotypes, transcend low expectations, and who know they belong here.
VERDICT A fabulous debut, not to be missed. There is truth on every page—about love, restraint, and integrity.

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