Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: This Side of Home

Book: This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Source: Borrowed from Publisher/NetGalley for an honest review

Publication: February 3, 2015


A captivating and poignant coming-of-age urban YA debut about sisters, friends, and what it means to embrace change.

Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.

In her inspired YA debut, Renee Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars


This takes an interesting and honest look at gentrification, race and culture from a young person's point of view. Maya is idealist and has a ton of conviction. She sees things that are wrong and want to do something about it but that doesn't mean she's always right. However that doesn't stop her from trying. She gets her spirit of activism from her parents especially her father. She's also very interested in being a journalist and the desire to ask questions is something that she does quite often. Maya and her sister are named after the writers and poets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni.

The story centers around high school senior Maya Younger as she tries to sort through her feelings of her Portland neighborhood quickly transitioning into the latest trendy place to live. She is also starting to grow apart from her twin sister Nikki and her boyfriend Devin. Maya feels like she doesn't really know Devin despite all the years they have known each other. She's also working with a few other students at school which includes her new neighbor Tony to try show the good things that happen at the school because the media only wants to focus on the negative.

There is tension brewing at the school and with the student council that Maya is the President of, most of the tension with the council is mainly due to the new Principal making all the decisions for the group. The Principal Mr. Green has one track mind to make a lot of changes without stopping to see some of the wonderful things that are already at the school.

With her sister spending more time hanging out with Tony's sister Kate, Maya tries her best to keep things the way they used to be but with so many changes happening it's not always that easy. She is also starting to have feelings for Tony who she finds they have a lot in common. But is Maya ready for yet another change.

The gentrification is making the neighborhood more diverse and adding new businesses but Maya feels like some things are getting pushed aside or disappearing altogether turning it into another generic area. Everyone always talks about all the good things about gentrification but what about the downside to it. Is there a way for Maya to embrace the changes but still hold on to what used to be there.

Change is the central theme of this book, Maya is experiencing so many different changes but that's what makes this such a good story. This was a well-written, fast paced and easy flow book where you get to see how Maya deals with everything and see how it changes her but also how she tries to make change. I like all the characters in this book except for a few such as the Principal and few other students that include Cynthia but I'm sure that's exactly what the author wanted you to feel. Maya's teacher Mrs. Armstrong reminds me of few teachers I had who not only want to educate you but also want you to be able to connect with the information.  I also love the historical aspects included in the story.

I wonder if the author is planning to writer a sequel because I would love to see what happens to these characters. And if not, this was still a very good read.

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