Book Review: ‘This Side of Home’ by Renee Watson

9781619632134This Side of Home is a story following  17-year-old Black twins Maya, Nikki, and their childhood friend Essence who have aspirations of attending an HBCU. That is, until their predominantly Black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon experiences gentrification.

Before starting their senior year, things took a turn for the worse when a White family moved into Essence’s former home, where she’s lived for almost her whole childhood.  While Nikki seemed ecstatic with the changes in her community, the erasure of diversity in her community was upsetting to Maya as she saw it fade away, being replaced with pretty coffee shops, and boutiques. She notices how the media fails to highlight the positive, rich diversity in her neighborhood. At school, Maya’s future was nothing like she thought they would be; the traditions and culture of the school have been completely turned around.

I liked the character development of the protagonist, Maya. Although she was unafraid to speak out against injustice, she learned that there is a grey area in the world.  Her character is contrasted against her best friend, new neighbors, and even her own sister. I liked the character development of the protagonist, Maya. Although she was unafraid to speak out against injustice, she learned that there is a grey area in the world. Her character is contrasted against her childhood friend, her classmates and new neighbors. As Maya attempted to use her position of power as student body president, she realizes that she and her sister who have shared so much in common, are really different when it comes to racial politics.

The poster war on Black History Month is a memorable part of the book because it brings out youth activism, and passion, and allies from every side. It made me contemplate what I would do if I were in her situation.

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