Her dad is an alcoholic with a gambling problem who never pays the rent, so her family keeps getting evicted from their homes. But that's not the only reason Genesis hates herself. Mostly it's because she is dark-skinned, and she wishes she were lighter. Genesis tries multiple ways to lighten her skin and help her family, both with disappointing results. Only after she learns to appreciate herself for who she is does everything else starts to fall into place. The "year in the life" style of this story gives readers an opportunity to look into someone's day-to-day, observing experiences that might be quite different from or similar to their own. This lengthy debut includes many common tropes—the inspirational teacher, the group of best friends, the mean girls—but its final message is powerful and challenges Genesis to define her life on her own terms, not society's. Genesis comes out stronger in the end, and the reader who sticks with her story will hopefully feel the same. Grades 4-8. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
PW Annex Reviews
Genesis Anderson is a fragile middle schooler whose turbulent home life and drive for acceptance fuel this emotionally rich debut. Forced to start over time and again because of a series of evictions, Genesis has a dearth of self-confidence (and a list of 96 reasons that she hates herself) and trouble making new friends. That slowly begins to change when her African-American family moves to an upscale white suburb, and Genesis has to find her footing in an entirely new environment. While some students uphold the same racist ideas she's familiar with, others treat her with a depth of compassion that has her questioning the colorism that's seeped into her own psyche. It's agonizing to follow Genesis through attempts to bleach her skin to fit in, but the lows only make her triumphs feel sweeter as she slowly begins to find strengths she never suspected she possessed, friends who love and accept her, and a mentor who encourages her to let herself shine. With its relatable and sympathetic protagonist, complex setting, and exceptional emotional range, this title is easy to recommend. Ages 9–13. (Jan.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.
School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 5–8—Genesis comes home from school to find her family's belongings on the lawn; they've been evicted again. Her father promises that this next time will be different, renting a house in the suburbs and promising that he will get a promotion at work so they can afford it. At school, Genesis makes friends for the first time and is mentored by Mrs. Hill, the choir teacher, but Genesis's father still drinks too much and her parents' marriage is unraveling. Genesis tries lightening her skin, begs to be able to use relaxer in her hair, and keeps a list of things she hates about herself, believing that if she only looked like her light-skinned mother and not her dark-skinned father, the situation at home would improve. This message is hammered home by her father's cruel comments and her grandmother's story of the "brown paper bag" test. Genesis escapes by singing; she is inspired by greats like Billie Holiday and Etta James. When she has the opportunity to sing in the school talent show, Genesis must find the power in using her voice to speak her truth. Genesis' struggles are age appropriate but do not shy away from the hard truth about colorism within the Afro American community. Through each character, readers come to understand the significance of how one's story plays out in reactions and interactions with the people around them. The hopeful but not happy ending adds to the realism and emotional impact of this powerful story. VERDICT This is a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a girl grappling with hard truths about her family and her own feelings of self-worth. A must for all collections.—Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL
Copyright 2019 School Library Journal.
A 13-year-old girl who is so oppressed by low self-esteem that she keeps a list of the things she hates about herself must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to learn to love herself. A first novel. 25,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)
Thirteen-year-old Genesis tries again and again to lighten her black skin, thinking it is the root of her family's troubles, before discovering reasons to love herself as is. - (Baker & Taylor)
A Newbery Honor Book
Winner of the Correta Scott King - John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award
A Morris Award Finalist
An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
A School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.
There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant&;even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.
What&;s not so regular is that this time they all don&;t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It&;s not that Genesis doesn&;t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight&;Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she&;d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren&;t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she&;s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.
But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won&;t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they&;re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again? - (Simon and Schuster)