Sunday, February 10, 2019

Watch Us Rise

Watson, Renee and Hagan, Ellen. Watch Us Rise
February 12th 2019 by Bloomsbury YA
E ARC from Edelweiss

Jasmine and Chelsea attend high school at Amsterdam Heights, a progressive school with an impressive social justice program. They are unhappy that their theater and poetry groups are still embracing the traditional, white ideas and want to make a change, so they start their own women's activist group, called Write Like a Girl. Each group in the school has a blog, so they start theirs, and their writing attracts lots of attention, both good and bad. The principal admonishes them that they need to watch themselves, which defeats the whole purpose of the group. The girls also have complicated lives. Jasmine's father is dying of cancer, and she has a long time friend in Isaac, but she's not sure where the two stand romantically. Chelsea has a younger sister who is also a feminist, but her parents are old school and religious. Chelsea is interested in a boy in her class, but he already has a girlfriend, although this doesn't stop him from putting the moves on Chelsea, which she doesn't appreciated. Still feeling that their voices aren't being heard, the girls print t shirts highlighting women's voices, and even stage a strike by the women in their school. While they are still not happy with the atmosphere, there are small steps being made, and the two are glad that they are socially conscious and willing to take risks in order to be heard.
Strengths: This has lots of female empowerment as well as on trend depictions of many social issues like body positivity. Jasmine and Chelsea both take control of their own destinies and try to figure out a way to make their voices heard. They deal with a variety of reactions to their opinions from teachers who are supportive to classmates who mock them. The poetry will appeal to readers who like free verse.
Weaknesses: I found it a little hard to believe that the principal of a school that wins awards for social justice would be so completely tone deaf to microaggressions and outright harassment. It's not unusual to portray principals as incompetent, but it would have made more sense if the principal had been more supportive.
What I really think: This is very introspective and deals with many issues that middle school students are just discovering. It would be appropriate for middle school, but most likely of limited interest. An excellent purchase for a high school.
Ms. Yingling

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