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This Side of Home

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,690 Ratings  ·  340 Reviews
Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Sudde ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
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willaful Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is somewhat similar, in that it's also about an identical twin whose sister is separating from her. The other plot elements…moreFangirl by Rainbow Rowell is somewhat similar, in that it's also about an identical twin whose sister is separating from her. The other plot elements are quite different, though.(less)

Community Reviews

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C.G. Drews
This is a pretty important book that tackles topics like racism, finding your voice, and why ice cream is better than frozen yogurt. All good points. All need to be said. It's #ownvoices too! And I love how it really delved deep into a lot of micro-aggression that African Americans face every day, plus it unpacked a lot of things white people might be found whining about: like why Black History Month is important and why saying "I don't see colour" is problematic. It was really good and really f ...more
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Renée Watson's debut novel THIS SIDE OF HOME is the story of Maya's senior year at high school. It starts with a big change, when her best friend is evicted from the house across the street and has to move across town. The new family that moves in is white, just like most of the families moving into the historically black neighborhood.

Maya is passionate about her town, about the history of her neighborhood and school and the people who have lived there. She's angered by the gentrification, by th
Heather 'Bookables'
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary

Really enjoyed this book & the message it had!
Latanya (CraftyScribbles)
My name is L.

I have a problem.

I read YA fiction and I love the state I'm in.

But, YA doesn't tend to love some of its readers back.

However, sometimes I find what's offered in this "subgenre" (as it's not a genre, but rather a geared audience) anemic and offering little variation in plot, characters, and even book aesthetic. When I find a true gem, I must shout. This Side of Home offers a story many desire, but few see.

1. A strong and relatable female protagonist. She's not perfect. She pos
Jenny (adultishbooks)
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic YA debut novel about an African American girl named Maya whose heart is set on attending a historically black college with her twin, Nikki, and their best friend Essence after high school. Their neighborhood in Portland, OR is changing with an influx of redevelopment and the demographic is changing. Maya is incredibly resistant to change and wants things to stay the way they are while Nikki accepts change a little too easily for Maya.

I thought it was so refreshing for this s
Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd)

I LOVED this book. First of all, I’m a sucker for a twin story, being one myself I love reading about twin sisters (especially if they don’t hate each other) and this book did not disappoint. This Side of Home is a gorgeous and thought provoking book about gentrification, community, and identity. It’s filled with warmth and love and heart and frustration and indecision and stubbornness. I just loved it so much!!

-Maya & Nikki. Like I said, I’m a sucker for twin stories, especially twin
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's been a while since I've read a book so peppered in culture and the highs and lows of racial differences, but I must say I truly liked this story for all it stood for and the way in which it was written.

This Side of Home tells the story of Maya, and the tight bond she has with her twin sister, Nikki, and her best friend Essence. It's also about coping with changes, to oneself and to everything around you. Her whole life, Maya had everything mapped out, so it was understandable that she'd fe
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley.

Some books are just too gorgeous to talk about for a certain period of time after you read them. Every time you try, all the emotions come rushing back in and you choke up like I did that time I was in my school musical in sixth grade (don’t ask anything about it because it ties into the horrible story of one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends). This Side of Home is one such book. All I could say
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bloomsbury
Senior Maya Younger is a remarkable young woman, articulate, intelligent and ambitious. Identical siblings Maya and Nikki aspire to attend Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women. The Portland neighbourhood is evolving, a predominantly black community displaced by white residents and corporate franchise stores.
They've painted and planted and made beauty out of decaying dreams. Block after block, strangers kept coming to Jackson Avenue, kept coming and changing and r
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was book was just amazing!

I saw this book in a video one of my favourite booktubers made and I decided to give it a go because she said she enjoyed it a lot. I am so glad I picked it up because it was such an educational and emotional read.
As a white European I don't get to communicate with people of colour that often, especially African-Americans. I never knew the extent of the problems and struggles they face on a daily basis. I am so happy that I now know thanks to this book.
I definit
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a great young adult book. I was lucky enough to have won this through a Goodreads giveaway, and it's definitely one of my favorite ya that I have received. It is quite true to high school, and relevant. Nicely written, and I loved how it isn't focused around sex. A lovely change.
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was very much a YA story...but so much better! I loved how the author touched on so many things that make up a part of being black. A very subtle read! I'd definitely recommend this!
Rich in Color
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
Review copy: ARC via Netgalley

This Side of Home is a solid debut by Renée Watson. While it shares many of the same tropes as other coming-of-age stories, the execution is what sets this book apart. Watson does a commendable job of painting a community in transition as gentrification drives old residents out and changes narrator Maya’s world in both obvious and subtle ways. Watching Maya and her neighborhood as they handled—or didn’t handle—the tumult made for a compelling story.

There were many s
Ms. Yingling
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nikki and Maya (both named after the poets) love their Portland neighborhood, but it is slowly gentrifying, with coffee shops opening in the homes of their old friends. Nikki thinks it's great, but Maya isn't a huge fan, especially when her friend Essence's house is sold and her friend moves 45 minutes away by bus. A new family moves in-- Kate, Tony, and their parents, who both work in community outreach jobs... and are white. Nikki takes to Kate right away, introducing her to life at their high ...more
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Review also found at

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is February 3rd 2015.

The synopsis provided for this story pretty much captures the essence of this story (too funny that one of the characters names is Essence!). This story is about two sisters who are experiencing changes in their environment and how they deal with it differently. It addresses the
This is THE most timely and relevant book for my neighborhood in Seattle, which is undergoing the same social and emotional turbulence of gentrification as Portland depicted in this story.

Complications of loyalty, repercussions of activism, and the changing nature of childhood promises add depth. Main character Maya is the only character fully realized but I recognized all the rest as the community I interact with daily. My own experiences fleshed out what some might consider to be flimsy secon
Mia Bao
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think that "This Side of Home" is one of the best books that I have ever read because I've learned so much from it. I could also relate to the story because I live in the neighborhood that the book is based on. I can understand how the neighborhood is gentrified and I know exactly how Maya feels about her neighborhood. One of the biggest things that I learned from this book is that you should always ask questions and fight for what you believe is right.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book reads much younger than I was expecting it to, so it took me a while to really get into it. But there's a lot I like about it, like the conversation Maya has with the old man in the coffee shop about Vanport and Portland's Black history, and the small but significant discussion about how hard it can be to have a parent who is an activist and puts community work first, and how exhausting it can be to always feel like you have to represent something.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
My full review can be seen here
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Please support my blog and read my review here:

I've been on such a YA contemporary kick lately, and This Side of Home is a great addition to the list. The story chronicles the life of twins Nikki and Maya as they finish up their last year of high school. Maya is our first-person narrator, and lets readers into her life in Portland, Oregon. The neighborhood in which she grew up is changing – new businesses are popping up everywhere, new families
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book everyone should read.

Beautifully written and thought-provoking, This Side of Home takes a refreshingly honest look at how cultural changes affects not only the relationship between twin sisters Maya and Nikki, but everyone around them, regardless of the color of their skin.

What I Liked:
~ The sisterly bond between Maya and Nikki, how they challenged and supported each other.
~ Their longtime friendship with Essence as well as the ones they formed with the new kids.
~ Maya and Nikk
THIS SIDE OF HOME by Renée Watson is an inspiring YA novel following a young woman facing the timely issues of racial, ethnic, cultural, and community identify.

Her neighborhood is changing and Maya is concerned about the impact this evolution will have on her school and community. The Portland, Oregon setting is perfect for a discussion of changing neighbors and reflects the urban renewal pressures facing many American cities.

Watson brings the difficult topics of race and community alive throug
I liked this. I liked that it was set in the Pacific Northwest! The descriptions of the weather were so great. That rain that lingers forever into summer, only to be taken over by hot weather that destroys everyone! And I liked that it took place over an entire year. MORE YA THAT DOES THAT, PLEASE. (Actually. More books in general that do that.)

Buuut I think the book dealt with too much. Like, I don't feel like I got much of a sense of Maya and Nikki's relationship. (And I never quite lost my fe
Rachael Robson
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I wish there was an option to give this book 4.5 stars. I loved it, but just not quite enough to call it a new favorite.

Here is my video review.

This book is set in a lower-income urban neighborhood, where, until recently, violence has been routine. There are several (brief, not explicit) references to violent incidents in the past. One character's mother is an alcoholic and shows up drunk throughout the book. There is teen romance, and some kissing, but nothing further or mo
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult-read
This Side Of Home is a story about twins Maya & Nikki. They were named after famous African American poets Maya Angelou Nad Nikki Giovanni. They are living in a neighborhood in Portland, Oregon that is going through a resurrection (gentrification). Because of this gentrification, it causes their oldest and dearest friend Essence to move to away from them. Essence is essentially the "third" twin. You see their life being played out with their last year of school with controversies, new friend ...more
Lucie Ferguson
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Young adult fiction about gentrification in Portland Oregon? This book was made for me!

"This Side of Home" follows Maya, a high school senior living in a historically black neighborhood in Portland, over the course of a year. Maya and her twin sister Nikki are starting to grow apart as they feel differently about how to deal with the changes in their neighborhood - changes that impact their best friend Essence as well as the culture of their high school.

At first glance, this plot is a tad bit g
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
This is one of the best teen/young adult novels I’ve read in a long, long, time.

From the beginning of the story, I was drawn to the author's lyrical prose and Maya’s powerful voice as an intelligent, insightful, and vulnerable character. She felt real and was likable.

I also grew up in Portland, Oregon and could identify with the complex issues surrounding the gentrification of the city, especially on the North and Northeast sides. Like Maya, I understand that there is some good in the changes,
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. This book should be required reading for all Portland residents. There’s a ton of Portland history, and gentrification explained by the people that it’s happening to. It made me understand gentrification a lot better than something more academic would, to see Nikki and Maya’s conflicting opinions of the changes in their neighborhood and how the changes impacted their friends and neighbors. And there was plenty of classic YA stuff like secrets, changing friendships, and romance. Plus th ...more
There's a lot to think about here, but ultimately, this is a satisfying read about two sisters on the brink of major life changes -- including new friends, choices about their futures, the way their family is operating -- and how those intersect with the gentrification of their Portland neighborhood. It explores a lot of class and race issues in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable to think about, but that's where it succeeds.

More to come. I loved Maya's stubbornness and hardheadedness and how
Jake Safirstein
Feb 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book is a story about a group of black teenage girls that go to a school in North East Portland and the racism that they go through in their lives and how their lives are changing with the people they meet. Sounds like a good story, right?

You're wrong. This book was a gigantic waste of my life. The story dragged along and the dialogue sounded like a book more than an actual conversation. I was excited at first to read a book that represented my town, but my expectations were shattered after
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Renée Watson is the author of the children’s picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen (Random House, June 2010), which was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction by The Independent Children's Booksellers Association.

Renée’s one woman show, Roses are Red, Women are Blue, debuted at N
More about Renée Watson

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“Am I a hypocrite?” I ask. “You’re a black girl who fell in love with a white boy.” “And a black girl who cares about race and class issues.” Nikki leans back in the chair. “You can be both.” 6 likes
“Okay, Maya. I get it. Just drop it. You don't want a nice, clean neighborhood. You'd rather drive all the way downtown for a good restaurant or get on the bus to go to the mall. You don't want-"
"Are you serious right now? Did I say I didn't want those things?"
"Well, that's how you're acting."
"I want things to be fair. And something is not fair when black men and women are turned down for business loans over and over again, but others aren't.”
More quotes…