Watson, Renee. This Side of Home.
February 3rd 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Nikki and Maya (both named after the poets) love their Portland neighborhood, but it is slowly gentrifying, with coffee shops opening in the homes of their old friends. Nikki thinks it's great, but Maya isn't a huge fan, especially when her friend Essence's house is sold and her friend moves 45 minutes away by bus. A new family moves in-- Kate, Tony, and their parents, who both work in community outreach jobs... and are white. Nikki takes to Kate right away, introducing her to life at their high school, which is also changing. A new principal, the first black one, is trying to overcome the negative culture of the school by trying to wipe out all of what Maya feels is the black culture. Other things are changing in Maya's life. She and Nikki and Essence have always planned to go to Spelman College to be near the twins' grandmother and invest themselves in the college culture of strong black women, but Essence's mother (who is an alcoholic) doesn't have the money, and Nikki would rather go elsewhere. When Maya finds herself attracted to Tony, she is reluctant to date him even though she recognizes that interracial couples don't face the issues they once did. In the end, Maya realizes that things change, and all she can do is to adapt.
Strengths: This was a great book celebrating the strengths of neighborhoods, families, and friends. It made me want to visit Maya's neighborhood! It's definitely an issue book, but I liked that it was framed in the perspective of one girl at a pivotal time of her life. The challenges that Maya faces are interestingly portrayed, and readers will like the romance as well.
Weaknesses: A bit slow at times. Definitely YA, although there is nothing appropriate. Just a bit more message driven and lyrical than the average MG book. Will buy a copy, but it will do better with 8th graders than 6th graders.