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Maria Andreu: Maria Andreu

Award-winning teen novelist.


Maria Andreu


March 2014


Maria Andreu
Photo © Andreanna Zarya.

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Book Feature


Maria E. Andreu is the author of Love in English (Balzer + Bray, 2021), a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection which received a starred review from School Library Journal. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post,, and the Newark Star Ledger. Her debut young adult novel, The Secret Side of Empty is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, a National Indie Excellence Book Award winner and an International Latino Book Awards Finalist. Maria lives in Bergen County. Find her online at


What are you reading?  What's on your nightstand?

I am currently reading CHASING THE SCREAM by Johann Hari, which outlines the history of the drug war. Fascinating. I just finished STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel which is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Where do you go to get inspired?

Anywhere with a pile of books. Libraries are great inspiration!

What's something that surprised you recently (in a good way)?

I usually get frustrated by the deer on my front yard because they eat all my flowers. The other day I came home and there was a deer family on my lawn. Since it's fall, most of my flowers are gone, so they were just chewing on grass. Instead of getting frustrated, I just noticed how beautiful they were. So maybe I'm mellowing a bit.

Where do you write?

I write on my couch. Sometimes I go to a local cafe.

What/who makes you laugh? Why?

My kids and I like to make fun of crazy commercials. We can see the humor is the weirdest things. That's a lot of fun.

Favorite fictional character ever?

It's hard to pick just one. But I really liked Meg in A WRINKLE IN TIME. I liked that she was awkward and not popular but that she found her way anyway. She gave me a lot of hope at a time that I was awkward and not popular.

What are you working on?

I am working on a dystopian novel about civilization after a purge to get rid of "undesirables."  I am also editing a novel I've finished about a girl whose brother has committed suicide and who is trying to find answers to what happens and where her family goes from here. So many more ideas than time to write...


On The Secret Side of Empty:

"What's it like to be undocumented? High school senior M.T. knows all too well. With graduation and an uncertain future looming, she must figure out how to grow up in the only country she's ever called home... a country in which she's 'illegal.' 

M.T. was born in Argentina and brought to America as a baby without any official papers. And as questions of college, work, and the future arise, M.T. will have to decide what exactly she wants for herself, knowing someone she loves will unavoidably pay the price for it. On the way, M.T. must navigate first love, letting go of her childhood friends as they begin a life she can't share, a difficult relationship with a father who grew up a world away and a mother struggling to find her way in America. What is it like when the only country you've ever known says you don't belong? The Secret Side of Empty offers an intimate, often surprising glimpse into a story you often hear on the news but have never heard told this way before.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a former undocumented immigrant to explore issues of belonging, keeping secrets and what it's like to be undocumented. More than that, The Secret Side of Empty is a story that will touch anyone who has ever felt excluded or unsure about the future or has kept a secret she felt was too big too share."
—Junior Library Guild

"Andreu has crafted an empathetic yet gritty narrative; readers will ache for M.T. as they are let into her secret life. A timely and powerful portrait of the American dream deferred."
—Kirkus Reviews

"...eye-opening and wrenching."
—Publisheres Weekly

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