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‘Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From’ is a Timely and Relatable YA Novel – Book Review

Liliana Cruz is 15-years-old and trying to live her best life. However, we all know that being a teenager has its fair share of ups and downs, and this is no different for Liliana. Trying to navigate her friendship with Jade, who is spending an increasing amount of time with her new boyfriend and trying to deal with her family life and school, when she finds out something that will change her current life as she knows it. 

Currently, her inner-city school is severely underfunded, however, her father (who’s left her family more times than she’d care to count) put one final act in motion. Unbeknownst to Liliana, her father’s parting gift to her was signing her up for a desegregation program called METCO – and she’s been accepted. But just because Liliana has been accepted into METCO, it’s certainly not the same as being accepted at METCO. Now, Liliana has to navigate this new school, which means she has to change parts of herself that she never tried or wanted to alter before.  

Adapting to a new school and trying to make new friends, Liliana soon learns the truth about her father leaving. It is one she doesn’t expect and one that prompts her into action, especially when the racial tensions at her school threaten to boil over.

Cover art for Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
Cover for Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon, illustrated by Elena Garnu (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

Jennifer De Leon’s Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From is a fantastic debut novel. From the moment I read the first page, I was hooked. We all know the awkwardness that can stem from a sex-ed class, and that was the exact way in which De Leon introduces her character main character in Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From. In Liliana, we find a relatable protagonist that many readers are likely to connect with. We may have seen or experienced the friend who spends all of their time with their significant other and, in turn, ignores their friends and their feelings in the interim. 

Aside from the relatable people throughout the book, where the book shines is in its ability to bring together many essential talking points, including racism, segregation, immigration and deportation. On the surface, this might seem like a lot of topics to be addressed in a singular novel; however, De Leon does an expert job at addressing each one with the utmost care. While one could argue that perhaps a few of the themes could have had more time spent on it, I felt as though this reflected reality. There is always so much going on, and while we want to address everything and fix it all at once, that’s easier said than done.

De Leon perfectly explores just how all the themes found within the pages of the book are ones that impact people of colour, specifically the Latinx community, in a myriad of ways. However, I feel that many readers who are the children of immigrants, or who go through daily life as a minority at a predominantly white school will genuinely relate and connect to De Leon’s novel. This book is an important one for so many readers and many will be able to find a little bit of themselves in Liliana.

With characters and situations that are both relatable and extremely timely, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From is a book that everyone needs to add to their TBR lists immediately.

You can purchase Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo and your local independent bookstore.

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