“When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I am a huge fan of Renée Watson’s books and when I heard about Love is a Revolution I knew I had to read it! Right away, I loved the concept behind this book. Activism, particularly related to social justice movements, are huge topics right now, especially for the younger generation. I can’t think of a better plot for a teen or YA book. It is so current and reflective of what younger readers are going through, and I love that Watson is so tuned in to that.
The story kicks off pretty quickly in the first few pages. Nala’s cousin Imani is a member of Inspire Harlem, which is a “teen organization that does community service projects and hosts awareness events about various social issues” and she has been encouraging Nala to join. However, the events are never what Nala expects them to be; they tend to be more focused on the bad or negative things going on in society rather than the good. The passion that everyone in Inspire Harlem has which fuels their participation is not something she can relate to.
When Nala meets Tye, she pretends to be a different person than she is (like saying she’s vegetarian, and that she works as an event coordinator at her grandma’s senior living facility) for the sake of having things in common with him. Even though he approached her first and was clearly interested, Nala thinks that this is the only way to keep him interested. She quickly becomes tangled up in lies and there is no turning back.
This type of plot is one of my favorites. As readers we know that Nala’s lies are going to keep building on themselves and getting worse and worse. We also know that they are going to catch up with her at some point.
If you are like me, you secretly hope that they don’t and she can some how get out of everything unscathed! But that would be too easy, right? At the end of the day, Nala ends up hurting the people she loves and hurting herself even more.
One of the things that I really enjoyed in this book was how dynamic the entire cast of characters was, including the secondary characters. Nala spends a lot of time at the Sugar Hill Senior Living facility visiting with her grandma and all of her grandma’s friends. They take the time to talk with Nala and listen to her and offer advice when appropriate.
This quote in particular stuck out to me…
“…you have got to start learning how to love yourself. For you, it will always be easier to love other people, to put them first and cater to them, to adapt to their needs. You want to really be something in this world – learn how to walk in a room being yourself and staying true to who you are. Yes, there’s room for growth, always. But if the change isn’t for you it won’t last.”from Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson
This was an excellent read overall. I think teens who are interested in activism will find it especially appealing, as well as readers who may be struggling with their identities and figuring out what their purpose in life is post-high school and into college.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone, as well as Piecing Me Together, another outstanding Renée Watson book.
*quotes are from Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson