Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything -friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away.Read more...
Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything-friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.
In her inspired YA debut, Renee Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.
- ISBN-13: 9781599906683
- ISBN-10: 1599906686
- Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
- Publish Date: February 2015
- Page Count: 336
- Reading Level: Ages 13-UP
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-12-15
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)
Three friends take on the changing world around them
African-American twins Maya and Nikki and their neighbor Essence have always had their lives completely planned. They’ll date the right boys, attend historically black all-female Spelman College and be best friends forever.
But as their senior year starts, their surety gets shaky. Nikki appreciates the freshness and variety that gentrification has brought to their neighborhood, but Maya resents the lack of local black-owned businesses. Essence and her perpetually drunk mother move across town, and a wealthy white family—including a cute boy and his racially ignorant sister—move in. As student council president, Maya finds herself constantly at odds with the new Richmond High principal, an outsider whose vision for the school doesn’t match that of many students. As the year progresses, the three friends find that relationships can evolve, goals can shift and the past can help inform the present as well as the future.
There’s never been a better time for author Renée Watson’s YA debut. Narrator Maya is perceptive, whether participating in an ongoing hallway-postering campaign or explaining why a celebration of “tolerance” shouldn’t replace Black History Month. A single racial slur appears in a particularly tense moment, but otherwise this is a gentle yet powerful reflection on choices, changes and contemporary African-American teenage identity.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Watson about This Side of Home.