cover image Watch Us Rise

Watch Us Rise

Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0008-3

From Watson (Piecing Me Together) and poet Hagan comes a complex and socially conscious coming-of-age tale featuring young women of color. Jasmine, a plus-size African-American girl with a passion for acting, and her best friend Chelsea, a white girl and budding feminist, attend a social justice–focused high school in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. As the two struggle with the racism and sexism that are thriving even in seemingly progressive spaces, they come into their own as young activists pushing back against injustice. The characters are very human in both their passions and their frailties (Jasmine’s struggle to cope with her father’s terminal cancer; Chelsea’s occasional concessions to the same female ideals she rails against), but strong messaging can sometimes bog down the book’s pace as the girls stop everything to educate their parents, teachers, and a crush about institutionalized discrimination. The most important message is actually more subtle than the girls’: by following their convictions, young women have the power to change the world for the better. It’s a message, and a story, that any teen could benefit from and enjoy. Ages 13–up. [em]Agents: (for Watson) Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio; (for Hagan) Cindy Uh, Thompson Literary Agency. (Feb.) [/em]