Author: Louisa Onome
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Genre: YA Fiction
Get a copy: Here
About the book:
Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn't what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo's good.
Only, Kate's parents' corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to "fix" it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.
Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She's pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo's entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything—and everyone—she loves.
Now, let's get into this review:
1. The setting of this book was comfortable! It felt like home ( See what I did there? )
I really liked the fact that this book is set in Toronto. I haven't read many YA or just novels in general that take place in Canada so it was really nice to get references that are very Canadian and others that are quite specific to first generation Canadians. I didn't grow up in this kind of neighborhood but I felt like the author did a great job at showing that ginger east was a community! I'm sure that those who grew up in tight knit neighborhoods will definitely find some familiarity in this book.
2. Change can be hard but it is especially hard as a teenager
Nelo is 16 years old! At 16 - everything is already changing or you are planning for all the things that are going to change. That's when many start to think about college, possibly leaving home after high school, not seeing your friends everyday, your friendships are changing, your dynamics with your parents and so much more... in the case of Nelo, she is going through a lot of that because she is a teenager, most of her friends have moved to "better" neighborhoods and her closest friend seems to be getting closer to someone else. So when she feels like her neighborhood - her home- is under attack, she has to step up!
At first, it seemed to me like she was coming on too strong and just being hotheaded with the way that she was pushing things but the further you get into the book and the more you think about it, you realize that she is really just trying to hold on to something that's been a constant in her life and that "outsiders" seem hell bent on destroying or at least, not saving.
3. That said.... teenage angst is Adorably frustrating!
Gentrification is a problem. Change is hard. life is hard. I understand all of that but Nelo, like most teenagers really can't see past her little universe. I think the author does a really good job with the authenticity of Chinelo's voice. She is likeable in that way that YA heroes usually are: they are ready to take on the world and save what they love. But she is also frustrating in the same way because she is stubborn and she does not realize that there is so much that she doesn't know. I can't really go into detail without spoilers but I think it's safe to say that I wanted to seat her down and talk some sense into her a few times while reading this book.
4. So you mean to tell me... wow!
I can't give it away but I just had to say that I did not see that plot twist coming.
5. Growth and friendship - we love to see it.
The relationships between Nelo, Kate, Bo and Rafa was really well developed. It would have been great to have multiple POVs so that we could get the other's thoughts as well but I think that only having Nelo's perspective really made this story more realistic because at the end of the day, in life, you will only have your point of view and you have to try and understand the other person's point of view. I think that Nelo eventually learns how to do just that. It was great watching her and her friends come together and watching them "come of age" as we say.
All in all, I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it if you are a big fan of YA. I think that the blurb is spot on when it says that fans of Ibi Zoboi will enjoy this book. Let me know if you pick it up or if you've read it. I'm always up for a good chat :)