Wow! Where to start? I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. The story follows Jade, a black teenager who thinks her only way to succeed is to make it out of her neighborhood. Her mother wants her to have every opportunity (a word Jade kind of despises), and thus, Jade attends a private school on scholarship. Her guidance counselor (also a big believer in giving Jade opportunities) has set her up in a mentorship program for “at-risk” black girls. Jade decides to stay in the program, since it will net her a scholarship for college, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it.
Jade as a character has an amazing voice and presence. As the novel goes on, she finds her voice and her presence, and realizes she doesn’t know everything. Throughout the course of the novel, she deals with a lot of difficult things in her life that are also timely issues for today. From the microaggression of being asked to store her purse with a clerk while shopping (when none of the white customers ate asked to) to how her and her friends in her neighborhood react to police violence against black teenagers, the way everything is handled is realistic, and gave me a lot of food for thought as a white woman. I also really liked the inclusion of a friend Jade makes at her private school. Her friend is white, and provides some pushback to Jade, forcing her to figure out how to handle a friend who denies any racism in any situation where Jade feels discriminated against. The arc of their friendship is interesting to watch. All of the characters Jade encounters are well-developed and understandable. This is a novel full of love and grit.
I cannot get over this novel that Renee Watson has written. I have no bad things to say about it. This is my first Renee Watson book, but it will not be my last. I like the way the story is told, in collage-like pieces that mirror Jade’s own artwork. Additionally, I do a lot of reading of authors who are actively anti-racist when I read nonfiction. In a lot of novels I have read, though, I feel like racism is handled in BIG situations, like shootings and lynchings and other very OVERT acts of racism. In this book, these issues are discussed, but what is more insidious are the daily acts of everyday racism that Jade encounters, that are likely real for most black Americans. That most black Americans encounter these situations makes me angry, but that there’s a YA novel that shows a teenager dealing with it and navigating it as she finds her place in the world makes me happy. If it’s a reality of our world, I’m glad it can speak to someone’s authentic experience, and maybe speak to those of us who don’t have those experiences because of our privilege and show us we need to do better.
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Have you read any other #OwnVoices YA reads I should check out? What did you think of this book? Let me know in the comments!