Summary: Love Is a Revolution
In Love Is a Revolution, Nala Robertson is a big Black girl who lives with her cousin Imani and Imani’s parents. Imani is an environmental activist with the group Inspire Harlem. When Nala attends Imani’s birthday open-mic night, she meets a charismatic young man named Tye. Tye is also an activist who is immediately drawn to Nala. Nala is eager to impress and starts a series of lies, telling Tye that she is a vegan and pretending to be active in community work at her grandmother’s home for the elderly.
The two soon start dating but the relationship is obviously built on lies. Nala quickly becomes uncomfortable, worrying that Tye only likes her for the fake persona she created. At the same time, her relationship with Imani becomes strained as Imani is both disappointed in her and also excessively immersed in Inspire Harlem to the point of missing their family gatherings or drawing her activist friends into every outing with her and Nala. Eventually, with the help of her grandma, Nala has to realize the importance of self love and being herself.
I ADORED this book! Watson writes YA without profanity, that is still unmistakably YA — and that’s a major win for me every time. But more importantly, she creates memorable, nuanced characters. Weeks after reading this, I still remember all the characters in this story and their unique quirks. Nala is such a sweet girl. I could understand her desire to impress Tye, and we all know how tough it can be to untangle a web of lies, especially when the lies form the basis of a friendship or relationship. I loved that despite all the insecurities Nala had, her body was not one of them — whew! A book in which the fat girl likes her body! Yes!
Nala’s family is so warm and vibrant, and I liked the balanced way the author portrays the strain between Nala and her mother and how they make their way back to a sustainable relationship. Balance is a major theme in this book. Even with Inspire Harlem and activism and giving back to the community, Watson shows that sometimes it’s okay to focus on self, it’s okay to be content with your own scale of activism, even if it’s just staying true to yourself in a world that keeps trying to change you.
There’s a lot of Black culture with all the braids and turbans and natural hair, and straightened hair in this book. I like how Watson always makes it clear that Black women can choose what they want to do with their hair. Finally, I loved the Harlem setting in this book, and yes, Nala and Tye do have a sweet romance, and everything between them is handled sensitively without Nala losing herself entirely.
Overall: Love Is a Revolution
Love Is a Revolution is a thoughtful, sweet ode to embracing and loving oneself. Featuring a big Black girl who is comfortable in her body, in the fact that her thighs touch, this book highlights the challenges of family dynamics and balancing self with community and activism. Most importantly, however, it is a wonderful reminder for teens and adults alike that it is crucial to show up as ourselves in relationships. If you enjoy YA by Black authors, grandparent stories, and books by Renee Watson, you’ll love this one!
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Have your read this book or anything by Renee Watson? I’ve read all but one of her books (and that one was co-written). She’s one of my favorites! What’s your favorite Watson book?