FICTION

This Side of Home

304p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781599906683.
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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
Maya cycles through senior year, reflecting on changes to her closest relationships and her newly gentrified Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. Depictions of student activism focus on contemporary social issues and emphasize the importance of sankofa: "taking lessons from the past and bringing it into the future." Despite some unevenly nuanced characters, Watson's debut novel authentically protrays one African American teen's experiences.

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