This Side of Home
by Watson, Renee

Twins Nikki and Maya Younger always agreed on most things, but as they head into their senior year they react differently to the gentrification of their Portland, Oregon, neighborhood and the new-white-family that moves in after their best friend and her mother are evicted.

RENÉE WATSON is the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning author of the novels Watch Us Rise (co-written with Ellen Hagan), Piecing Me Together, This Side of Home, What Momma Left Me, Betty Before X, co-written with Ilyasah Shabazz, and two picture books: Harlem's Little Blackbird and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen. Renée is the founder of I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She lives in New York City.
@harlemportland (Instagram)

*Starred Review* Identical twins Maya and Nikki and their best friend, Essence, have lived in Portland, Oregon, in a traditionally African American neighborhood all their lives. At the end of their junior year at Richmond High School, Essence moves away when her alcoholic mother's landlord sells their home as gentrification begins to change the neighborhood. Maya, the more serious and sensitive of the twins, narrates both the events and her outrage when Nikki becomes best friends with the girl in the white family who buys Essence's former home. Then, when school resumes, Richmond's new principal seems bent on proving the school's "inclusiveness" by disrespecting its black students' traditions. Writing with the artfulness and insights of African American teen-lit pioneers Rita Williams-Garcia, Angela Johnson, and Jacqueline Woodson, Watson shows Maya exploring concerns rarely made this accessible: the difficulties in mounting a student protest; the nuisance of unconscious racial bias perceived in white allies; the emotional chaos within as a cross-race romance develops for Maya despite her desire to ignore it. Authentic teen characterizations mean that questions and challenges aren't always answered and that Maya herself discovers the limits of her own awareness. Essential for all collections, without regard to color or racial and interracial awareness of readers. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

The summer before Maya and Nikki's senior year of high school brings new challenges as their previously all-black neighborhood becomes attractive to other ethnic groups. The twins, while still close, have been changing in recent years and now find they have very different views about the changes. Nikki is delighted with improvements in their surroundings, but Maya is concerned they come at too steep a price. When their best friend's family is displaced, the rift deepens: Maya wants to maintain their connection to Essence, while Nikki has become close to newcomer Kate. Nikki may even be abandoning their long-held plan to attend Spelman College together. Their new principal appears willing to sacrifice many of the traditions the African-American students hold dear. And though Maya and Devin are a long-established couple, Maya finds herself drawn to Kate's brother, Tony, despite her misgivings about interracial dating. Eventually, the students find a way to reach across the divi des and honor the community's past while embracing its changing present. Maya's straightforward narration offers an intriguing look at how families and young people cope with community and personal change. Maya and her friends are well-drawn, successful characters surrounded by a realistic adult supporting cast. Readers may be surprised to find this multicultural story set in Portland, Oregon, but that just adds to its distinctive appeal. Here's hoping Watson's teen debut will be followed by many more. (Fiction. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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