Everything Within and In Between
– Nikki Barthelmess –
Published 5 October 2021
Everything Within and In Between is a novel about finding your identity and challenging racism. While the concept is great and there are some powerful moments, but I found the pacing to be slightly off and the character growth unsatisfying.
Ri Fernandez is white passing. It’s how her grandparents raised her, determined to fulfil their American Dream after emigrating from Mexico. But when she discovers that her grandmother has been lying about her mother and has been keeping them separated, Ri decides it’s time to take control of her story. She joins Spanish class, determined to learn her mother’s language and becomes aware of how she has separated herself from the Mexican community and other Latinx kids at school. Her change of heart causes conflict between Ri and her best friend Brittany, as well as rising tension between Ri and her grandmother. As Ri tests the boundaries of her world she tries to discover who she really is.
The main reason I didn’t enjoy this story was our main character Maria or Ri, as she goes by. We spend most of the book bouncing around with her emotions and (bad) choices. Ri has to be the very worst friend I have every witnessed. She takes advantage of Brittany, drive me here, pick me up, go with me, talk about my needs, but doesn’t listen in return, just constantly judges her, belittles the drama Brittany has at home, only wants to talk about her crush and just makes fun of Brittany’s crush, yells, snarks, snaps and is generally rude. Instead of having a conversation with her she just gets angry and abandons her at a party she didn’t even want to go to. Mean. And then, if that’s not bad enough, constantly goes on about how terrible Brittany is to her. She deliberately rolls her eyes at her to another person and doesn’t even care if she sees – wants her to see. I’m sorry, but that’s not friendship. Sure, call her on racism, teach, be kind and explain. Don’t be rude. But no. We also don’t see Ri’s coming to understand that she has been doing the same thing, saying racist things, as this happens before the start of the book and now Ri is all judgey for all the things she’s been doing all along. Ri’s old friends are very quick to forgive her, but when Brittany asks Ri to forgive her, Ri is just rude in response.
There is also the matter of the drug use. I can see how it’s meant to bring Ri’s character growth full circle once she connects with her mother, but it comes out of nowhere and once again Ri comes across as making stupid decisions, trying cocaine just because Brittany doesn’t like it and Ri wants to just have fun. Thankfully the book shows the darker side of addiction later on and Ri comes to an awakening to the danger of her choice.
I did love the idea and the heart behind the story. Wanting to belong, feeling like an outsider, forced away from her heritage and culture.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Culture, heritage, language, family, mother-daughter relationships, addiction, grandparents, racism.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Strong, detailed use of drugs including cocaine and drug and alcohol use references. References to addiction. Coarse language, f*** (1), sh**(22), sl** (1), ass**** (1), pi** (6). Sexual references to sexual relationships and deciding to have sex for the first time.
Published: 5 October 2021 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.