*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.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
As twins Maya and Nikki finish their junior year of high school, they have things planned out: summer, senior year, then attending Spelman College along with their best friend and neighbor Essence. But things are changing. The twins' historically black Portland neighborhood is gentrifying; Essence moves out, and a white family with a friendly daughter and an attractive son move in; and the new principal seems to think improvement means making the school less black. Watson (What Momma Left Me) hits key topics of class, race, and changing neighborhoods while telling a story about growing up, growing apart, and how love can come out of the blue, as well as across racial lines. Alas, the welter of issues and events means readers never get close enough to narrator Maya to really know her. Nikki is even less distinct, and the twins often seem like a set of paired opposites (one girl likes the new stores in their neighborhood, the other is suspicious of them, etc.), as opposed to fully realized characters. What results is a story that reads more as well-intentioned than entirely satisfying. Ages 13–up. (Feb.)
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School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 9 Up—Maya is heading into her senior year at Richmond High, but it's nothing like she'd thought it would be. Her Portland neighborhood is changing—along with her twin sister Nikki, her relationship with her boyfriend Tevin, and Maya's plans with Nikki and their BFF Essence to attend the same historically black college. Rent goes up, forcing Essence and her family to move further away from the twins. Tony and his family move in. Maya and Nikki deal with their changing "up-and-coming neighborhood" in different ways as they're forced to blend their ethnic and cultural identities and traditions with a changing community. Watson offers readers a personal account of what gentrification does to a neighborhood and those who live in it before the Whole Foods moves in. Maya has a fantastic voice—honest, passionate, and multidimensional. On top of all the "normal" teenage issues dealing with friends, romance, and the future, Maya has to deal with the changes her neighborhood is going through. She's compelled to act to make sure the original people, stores, and history don't disappear so quickly. Gentrification can be extremely difficult to discuss, but Watson delivers a well-rounded, delicate, and important story without sacrificing any heart. An engrossing and timely coming-of-age story.—Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ
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Twins Nikki and Maya usually agreed on things, but as they head into their senior year they react differently to the gentrification of their neighborhood and the new family that moves in after their friend and her mother are evicted. - (Baker & Taylor)
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. - (Baker & Taylor)
A captivating and poignant coming-of-age urban YA debut about sisters, friends, and what it means to embrace change.
- (McMillan Palgrave
From New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning author Renée Watson comes a captivating and poignant coming-of-age urban novel about sisters, friends, and what it means to embrace change.
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?
- (McMillan Palgrave