Wednesday, June 7, 2017

This Side of Home

25663941By: Renee Watson
Location: FIC WAT
Genre: Realistic fiction with big messages

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

"This Side Of Home is an intelligent read, wonderfully diverse and encourages discussion about cultural significance and inclusion. Compelling, compassionate reading. "- Kelly

Maya Younger and her identical twin sister, Nikki, have always agreed on the important things. Friends. Boys. School. They even plan to attend the same historically African American college.
But nothing can always remain the same.

As their Portland neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, Maya feels her connection to Nikki and their community slipping away. Nikki spends more time at trendy coffee shops than backyard barbecues, and their new high school principal is more committed to erasing the neighborhood's "ghetto" reputation than honoring its history. Home doesn't feel like home anymore. As Maya struggles to hold on to her black heritage, she begins to wonder with whom--or where--she belongs. Does growing up have to mean growing apart?

"The story chronicles the life of twins Nikki and Maya as they finish up their last year of high school. Maya is our first-person narrator, and lets readers into her life in Portland, Oregon. The neighborhood in which she grew up is changing – new businesses are popping up everywhere, new families are moving in across the street, and Maya feels as if her culture and friends are being forced to leave. This Side of Home is the perfect combination of a contemporary YA story and a discussion on race relations.

As Maya and Nikki take on their senior year of high school, they go through numerous struggles both at home and school. Nikki refuses to attend her best friend's birthday party because she is afraid the guests will call her "white" due to her straight hair and love for vintage clothes. Maya, on the other hand, is the student body president at Richmond, her notoriously dangerous high school. Maya takes on her new principal as he tries to focus on diversity, and not on the black history that Maya craves to feature at school events.

While This Side of Home takes on a variety of serious issues, it is also a quick read that I flew through in just a few hours. I grew to love the characters, and I loved the balance between a realistic teenage love story, and the fight to overcome racism in a public high school. I was thoroughly impressed with the writing in This Side of Home, as it flowed easily and was at a steady pace throughout.

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