cover image This Side of Home

This Side of Home

Renée Watson. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59990-668-3

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.)