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This Side of Home
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This Side of Home

4.2 6
by Renee Watson

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A captivating and poignant coming-of-age urban YA debut 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.



A captivating and poignant coming-of-age urban YA debut 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?

In a captivating coming-of-age story, Renée Watson explores the experiences, transitions, and cultural expectations of young African Americans in a changing world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“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 . . . essential for all collections.” —starred review, Booklist

“Watson paints a thoughtful, powerful picture of the complications of contemporary African- American experience, especially when it rubs up against the hipster middle class. . . . Without ever losing focus on the story of a group of likable teens working through changes during their senior year, Watson effectively manages character and situation to create a genuinely interrogative, genuinely multi-voiced perspective that reflects efforts to negotiate personal identity and desires amid unresolved problems of systemic racial injustice.” —starred review, BCCB

“An intriguing look at how families and young people cope with community and personal change. Readers may be surpised to find this multicultural story set in Portland, Oregon, but that just adds to its distinctive appeal. Here's hoping Watson's teen debut will be followed by many more.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Watson delivers a well-rounded, delicate, and important story without sacrificing any heart. An engrossing and timely coming-of-age story.” —School Library Journal

“Watson 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.” —Publishers Weekly

“Watson's first book for young adults will impact the life of anyone who reads it. . . . at a time when there is a call for more diverse books, Watson brings to today's teens a story that needs to be read.” —VOYA

“A wonderful book that deals with racial stereotypes and is thoughtful, well-written, and timely.” —Library Media Connection

“In This Side of Home, Renée Watson's loving, descriptive powers are in full force. She's sharing a vibrant world so well, friends who make us care, crackling true voices and legacies, interweave of troubles, knowing a place, wanting it never to change except in good ways, holding on to friends, doorways, porches, rooms and rhythms, don't go, don't go, the tiny rich glories making it home. 'Sometimes you have to rewrite your own history,' she says, then she lets her people do it, reshaping . . . 'A cleansing is taking place' and it's the world we live in and she gives it back to us so we understand the mystery a little better even if we can't solve it, even if nothing is ever quite fair. There's more there, and she finds it.” —Naomi Shihab Nye, author of HABIBI

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Maya Younger is a top student entering her senior year at inner city Richmond High. President of the student council and lifelong resident of the neighborhood, she is troubled by the changes she is seeing in her school and on her street. The city’s effort to “revitalize” the neighborhood has brought a host of trendy small businesses to the area and served as motivation for new home development and old home renovation, but not all of the changes are good. Maya’s best friend Essence is among the black residents largely uninvolved in the businesses and facing the reality of being priced-out of the homes they rented during the region’s rough years. At school, the new principal aims to celebrate the growing “diversity” of the student body, but he means to do so by shining a spotlight on the cultures of the new students while ignoring the traditions recognizing the history of the African American community. Meanwhile, Maya is struggling to bridge the gap between her sense of self as an African American girl and her growing feelings for newcomer-to-the-neighborhood, Tony. Renée Watson’s debut young adult novel is a candid look at community, identity, and change following Maya—and, as a counterpoint, her twin sister Nikki—over the course of a school year. Readers will find Maya’s conflicted feelings as she comes to terms with the changes in her community relatable. Watson’s nuanced consideration of urban renewal and unintended consequences for affected communities is a must read for this generation. This book should have a place in public and school libraries, as well as in literacy classrooms. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green; Ages 12 up.
VOYA, February 2015 (Vol. 37, No. 6) - Valerie Burleigh
Watson’s first book for young adults will impact the life of anyone who reads it. Through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old African American, Watson brings to light the issues that teens deal with every day. Nikki, the protagonist, deals with the hard questions that everyone thinks about, but no one has the courage to ask. She does not shy away from questioning cultural bias and traditions, and as the reader journeys with her, that reader realizes that he or she wants to know the answers as well. Especially poignant is when Nikki wonders, “I can’t remember when I started to have these feelings of pride and shame. I remember feeling pride when a black person succeeded…and if a black person failed, I felt embarrassed. Do white people get that feeling?” At the beginning of the story, Watson’s words create vivid images of summertime. The book is divided into seasons and follows Nikki for her senior year in high school. She deals with many issues in that year, from her friend’s turbulent relationship with an alcoholic mother to falling in love with a white boy and hiding the relationship out of shame. She confronts cultural changes in her neighborhood and school. She questions the emotional distance that starts to appear between her and her twin sister. As Nikki tries to make sense of where she fits in and whether or not she needs to change, she realizes she cannot control everything but she can make a difference. This is the heart of the story and one that every teen can relate to. Written in very short chapters that appeal to reluctant readers, this book is suitable for middle to high school and recommended for adults as well. At a time when there is a call for more diverse books, Watson brings to today’s teens a story that needs to be read. Reviewer: Valerie Burleigh; Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
The summer before Maya and Nikki's senior year of high school brings new challenges as their previously all-black neighborhood becomes attractive to other ethnic groups. The twins, while still close, have been changing in recent years and now find they have very different views about the changes. Nikki is delighted with improvements in their surroundings, but Maya is concerned they come at too steep a price. When their best friend's family is displaced, the rift deepens: Maya wants to maintain their connection to Essence, while Nikki has become close to newcomer Kate. Nikki may even be abandoning their long-held plan to attend Spelman College together. Their new principal appears willing to sacrifice many of the traditions the African-American students hold dear. And though Maya and Devin are a long-established couple, Maya finds herself drawn to Kate's brother, Tony, despite her misgivings about interracial dating. Eventually, the students find a way to reach across the divides and honor the community's past while embracing its changing present. Maya's straightforward narration offers an intriguing look at how families and young people cope with community and personal change. Maya and her friends are well-drawn, successful characters surrounded by a realistic adult supporting cast. Readers may be surprised to find this multicultural story set in Portland, Oregon, but that just adds to its distinctive appeal. Here's hoping Watson's teen debut will be followed by many more. (Fiction. 12-16)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Meet the Author

RENÉE WATSON is the author the teen novels, Piecing Me Together and This Side of Home, and two acclaimed picture books: Harlem's Little Blackbird and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, which was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as an ABA New Voices Pick. She lives in New York City.

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This Side of Home 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I wanted more from this novel. After reading this novel, I got the message that you should do what you want to do in your life no matter what anyone else is doing and no matter what you have “planned” to do previously. For times change and people change, so you need to do what is best for you when the time comes. The novel is centered on identical twins that have lived across the street from Essence for years. The girls are now in their senior year of high school and Essence ends up moving. They are still able to see each other but the convenience of being across the street from each other is now taken away. Kate and Tony have now moved into the house across the street. Nikki begins to hang out with the new neighbors while Maya continues her committed relationship with Essence. Maya feels that Nikki has betrayed Essence, as she is no longer a part of their threesome. The three had made college plans together and suddenly they are disintegrating. Times are changing as other relationships are falling away and new ones are forming. Individuals are changing, life is moving forward and people are forming opinions of one another. Maya seemed too concerned over other people’s opinion especially her father’s. She is concerned about her relationship with Tony. She is willing to take drastic measures to ensure that other’s happiness is achieved above her own. I was surprised that Maya would bow down to this level but there is pride within her and fear that overcomes everything. I liked that Maya was proud of her heritage and that she wanted others to feel the same way. I loved that she felt proud when someone of color makes an accomplishment and that she felt shameful when they failed at something, she took everything that a person of color personable, what they did was a reflection on her. I thought the novel should have cried out its message stronger and louder for I felt it had a great storyline, it just lacked execution. A good novel about diversity and taking a stand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't have the nook copy. But i read it and ot was awesome!
SheebaKay More than 1 year ago
This Side of Home  by Renee WatsonRenee Watson's riveting and poetic novel, "This Side of Home," works on so many levels. I couldn't put it down. It is more than another universal teen growing pains YA book, it is very specific to time and place: Portland, OR and the current gentrification craze, rendering a middle and working class Black neighborhood lost to White gentrifiers. Aside from Watson's wry observations about Latte life and trendy boutiques, her character observations are keen and free of us/them stereotyping. The main character, Maya, regrets many losses. Her twin Nikki seems more enamored of their new White neighbors than of their long time best friend, Essence, who sadly has to move away with her alcoholic and dysfunctional mother. But Maya's conflicts are real, and complex, not easily fixed in a plot or story of a simpler order. For starters, she likes the pleasant new neighbor, Tony. She despairs of the choices Essence makes, and laments the gradual crumbling of the tight circle of friends and expectations about how they'd all go to college together. Watson does not shy away from controversy, and fully and bravely takes on classism, interracial dating and friendship, and key issues that effect teens today, without sacrificing a good story about a likable character navigating a bewildering world. Adult characters, busybody neighbors, a journalism teacher, and the parents, are realistically drawn but never overshadow the teens and their struggles. The language and style are lyrical and visual, and took me, as a reader, into a world that was both recognizable and unfamiliar. I recommend this book to students and teachers, and will share it with students I teach and tutor in New York City. There is much to think about and digest in This Side of Home.      
gaele More than 1 year ago
Tackling the bigger societal issues of race, gentrification and cultural identification is a huge undertaking and wholly daunting. Renée Watson brings us the tale of twin sisters, Nikki and Maya (both named after lauded African American poets) come from a neighborhood that is a little run down, lacking in diversity, and about to undergo a large change.   While Nikki is more open to the earlier changes and sees opportunities that her sister Maya may miss, the whole plethora of issues  large and small are tackled from the perspective of one young girl who is struggling to find her own place in the changing landscape.  Beautifully written with concepts that are far more complex broken into smaller, easy to relate-to pieces, this story gives readers to see  into the turmoil and tumult, concerns and questions that arise, and see just how much things need to change to actually make impacts  that are more than superficial.  Maya starts out a little close-minded and perhaps incorrect in her beliefs and behavior as she faces the change around her.  Still reeling  from the loss of her best friend, she is hurting and can only relate to the rest of the changes from that perspective. Introducing Tony to  show her that stepping away and looking at situations from a distance can improve her perspective was a welcomed addition to the  story, and gives her the ability to see the positive in the changes, not just the list of issues still unaddressed.  Strongly feeling the slow diminishment of her ‘black culture’ that has always been important to her, Maya needs to learn that you can carry your self-identification with you everywhere you go, and insert it into your situations: but to only experience one way of things is lessening your own potential and experience, and just as remaining true to who you are is important, retaining the ability to adapt and grow as all things change is more so.  I loved the approach of this story, showing the girls learning and coming to realize that not all changes mean that they are leaving  something behind, but that they can find enrichment and enjoyment in more ways.  Accepting that change happens is part of getting older and learning who you are and will be.  A bit more message-driven, although most of the messages are subtly woven into the tale  and shown as the girls grow, this is a great story to introduce tweens and teens to the larger issues of racial identity and diversity.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review:  all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Cupcakegirly More than 1 year ago
This is a book everyone should read. Beautifully written and thought-provoking, This Side of Home takes a refreshingly honest look at how cultural changes affects not only the relationship between twin sisters Maya and Nikki, but everyone around them, regardless of the color of their skin. What I Liked: ~ The sisterly bond between Maya and Nikki, how they challenged and supported each other. ~ Their longtime friendship with Essence as well as the ones they formed with the new kids. ~ Maya and Nikki's parents, because they are FANTASTIC. ~ The conversation between Maya and Nikki that takes place on pages 234-235 (in the ARC version) was eye-opening and made me want to wrap both girls up in a hug. ~ Tony. ~ Gentrification plays a key role in the changes that take place and while it tends to be a hot topic, Renée Watson depicts both sides of the discussion without demonizing either one. Favorite Quote(s): I know how I felt always being portrayed as the victim. I'm sure being seen as the perpetrator feels just as awful. "Am I a hypocrite?" I ask. "You're a black girl who fell in love with a white boy." "And a black girl who cares about race and class issues." [She] leans back in the chair. "You can be both." Mom tells me, "Some people will like you and some won't. What's more important is: Do you like yourself?"
valercrazy More than 1 year ago
This story hit me hard from the very beginning because of how open and honest it was; Maya has lived in a rough part of Portland her whole life but now it is becoming swanky and upscale which is hard for her to deal with. It was interesting to see her point of view on how things were evolving because she is a fiercely strong character who takes pride in her roots; she’s stubborn and closed off to any kind of change, even if it was for the better, which makes the current situation hard to deal with. Honestly, this book was a bit of a conundrum for me, it was a quick read but yet really hard to get through; Maya’s view on the world hit me in the feels, it was honest but she also had a lot of flawed views. Following her on her journey was really insightful and I’m glad that I got the chance to read this book. Maya has so much pride in her heritage and her history that she fights for people to see the good of her school and of her race but she yet she has a hard time finding beauty in the lives of the people who are joining her community. She struggles with not wanting to disregard the hardships and successes of her race which actually made the story compelling, I enjoyed her journey. The other characters, including Tony, a white boy who moves into the neighborhood, are all really great in their interactions with Maya and I loved seeing how they influenced her. The ending was rushed, what I was expecting to take one hundred plus pages only took like thirty with even more things happening that needed EVEN MORE pages to fully resolve but that’s my only complaint.  It’s a choppy book which I didn’t mind but I could understand if someone didn’t really like that.  Overall, I really enjoyed it because it was a great diversity book that had some really great lessons.