Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
When Nala sees Tye Brown on stage at an open mic night run by youth activist group Inspire Harlem, she’s instantly smitten by his good looks and his caring manner. Nala is there for her ‘cousin-sister-friend’ Imani’s birthday; she doesn’t really get along with the other woke-as-can-be Inspire Harlem members. When Nala and Tye strike up a conversation, in the heat of the moment Nala pretends to be the person she thinks Tye will be attracted to: vegetarian, political and a volunteer for an arts and craft program at her grandmother’s retirement home.
Often in a teen romance, the tension comes from whether a crush is requited or not, but in Love Is a Revolution it’s clear right from the start that Tye likes Nala. The more pressing question is: does Nala like herself? Nala feels judged by Imani and her friends for so many things: straightening her hair; buying bottled water; enjoying make-up; not being politically active; not knowing more about Black history. As her relationship with Tye deepens and tensions with Imani grow worse, Nala is forced to consider why she feels so inferior.
Love Is a Revolution isn’t just a novel about young love and self-acceptance, or even an exploration of grassroots activism. What really drew me in was the thoughtful exploration of how complicated relationships with family, friendships and community can be. The friction between Nala and Imani has deep historical roots, involving both their mothers, and it’s the older generation at Sugar Hill retirement home that give the greatest insight into the situation. This was an immersive and uplifting read, depicting multi-dimensional teenagers with passions, doubts, fears and dreams. For ages 13+.