Renée Watson, Love is a Revolution, Bloomsbury, February 2021, 400 pp., RRP $15.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781526616821
Nala, a plus-sized black girl living in Harlem New York, is at the start of the summer holidays, still finding who and what she is but aiming to find love this summer. Having disagreed with her mother when she was thirteen, she now lives permanently with her aunt and uncle, and her cousin-sister-friend, Imani. When she goes to an open-mic night to celebrate Imani’s birthday, she falls in love with Tye, who also finds her attractive.
But, to create the persona that she thinks Tye wants, Nala doesn’t tell the truth about herself. So the web of lies grows and becomes more complex. Nala isn’t happy with this portrayal, but it becomes too hard to escape the tangles. Visits to her Grandma and JT in their residential home help her to sort herself out, but it is Nala herself who must make the changes: accepting herself for how she looks, changing how she behaves, what she wants for the future, how she will achieve those goals and finding self-love.
Nala’s voice is clear though at times she seemed to act younger than her 17 years. There are good references to music, poets, and quotes from famous activists, but the American bias made it sometimes less relevant to me. I enjoyed Watson’s writing most of the time, with its often lyrical content, but it wasn’t till towards the end of the book that I began to want to know what would happen.
Suited to older readers but there is no content which will make it less acceptable to younger teenagers.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann