Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Like Vanessa” as Want to Read:
Like Vanessa
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Like Vanessa

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  528 ratings  ·  153 reviews
In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin's real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at sch ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 13th 2018 by Charlesbridge
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Like Vanessa, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  528 ratings  ·  153 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Like Vanessa
[Shai] Bibliophage
Like Vanessa is categorized under middle grade and children's fiction, but I reckon that it will be appreciated more by young adults because of its story and because of how quite long. it is The novel is about Vanessa “Nessy” Martin: a Black American; a 13-year-old and 8th grader at King Middle School who lives with his grandfather, cousin, and dad in Newark, New Jersey.

Nessy’s mother left them when she was still 4 years old, hence she can’t remember any memories she had with her. Also, she has no i
Chelsea slytherink
3.5 stars. Overall I enjoyed Like Vanessa, but there were a lot of harmful statements that I could’ve lived without.
Check out my blog for more reviews and other bookish posts! This is a spoiler-free review!

full review:

I received an e-ARC from Charlesbridge through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I feel conflicted about Like Vanessa. I enjoyed reading this middle grade novel and I liked Vanessa’s character development, but there were some messages that rubbed me the wrong way.I/>Check
T.J. Burns
Heart-wrenching, moving, and inspirational all at once. Who'd have ever thought I'd get involved in the story about a beauty pageant contestant? But this book has so much to offer. Vanessa's aspirations go so much deeper than beauty pageants. Vanessa dearly wants to be loved and to be considered beautiful. Her quest to achieve beauty leads her to the discovery that the beauty is inside herself -- and it has been there all along.

Vanessa is so genuine, so honest, in her thoughts (although she som
Update 11/20/2017

There's a giveaway happening for this book rn!! Definitely enter it; this is one of my fave releases of 2018. yes I know it's not even 2018 yet but nothing can beat Like Vanessa, sorry

"Everybody's got their rep... Mine? I'm like oxygen -- you know I'm there, but you don't see me. I shut my mouth. I make good grades. And when the bell rings at the end of the day, I take my butt home, close my door, and dream of a place far, far away from here."

Holy crap! What a book!! I try to stay aw/>
Kate ☀️ Olson
LIKE VANESSA is a hard-hitting take on growing up in public housing in Newark, NJ in the early 80's while under the spell of the first-ever Black Miss America, Vanessa Williams. The main character is also named Vanessa, and her story of being raised by her alcoholic, but well-meaning, grandfather and her mostly-absent father is absolutely heartbreaking. The pageant storyline brings up many important and timely themes of race and beauty ideals, while Vanessa's cousin's experiences addresses the s ...more
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Like Vanessa felt like a blast from the past for me. Although I don't quite remember the eighties fully but I bonded with Vanessa having to be raised by a single father who worked a lot. This was a story that definitely gave me the chills. It is reality that many lower income families face. Having many family members in the home but not a lot of resources. Families members that have their own strife. I didn't feel like any of the characters fell flat. This story is empowering and honestly I wish ...more
La La
I cannot say enough about this story. If you are looking for impactful culturally diverse YA, this is your book! I was totally immersed in the MC's life from the first few pages. Everything I want to rave about would be a spoiler, so this is a very short review.

I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
I loved this book! I think this is a must-order for any public or middle-school library! Besides being a much-needed book with diverse characters and cultural authenticity, it is a wonderfully rich and multi-faceted story with a positive message about beauty and strength that will have readers reexamining their definitions of beauty and hopefully inspiring them to recognize their own natural beauty.

Set in the Newark projects in 1983, 13-year old Vanessa Martin, long-time Miss America pageant fa
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was Crazy Good! The characters, the plot and the writing were all well crafted.

Oh, how I loved Vanessa. Her story had its differences, yet it was so similar and familiar to my own. I only wish I had been as brave as her when I was her age. Her honesty and vulnerability were so refreshing to see. I also loved how she was able to accept responsibility for her mistakes and apologize. Her relationship with TJ was probably my favorite. I wish every student could have a Mrs. Walt
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
When I saw this book I felt drawn to it because of our shared names. It’s been nice to see how in many ways this Vanessa and I, are alike and different. It is a touching story that portrays the life of a young girl, who wants to be Miss America. She finally sees someone she can relate to win the pageant, Vanessa Williams and is inspired. It’s a tale of acceptance, harsh realities, and it highlights the importance of role models and having people (family, friends, & teachers) believe in you e ...more
Clare Lund
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
It’s 1983, and Vanessa Williams was just crowned Miss America, the first black woman to win the title. This changes everything for 13-year-old Vanessa Martin, who watches the Miss America pageant every year with her grandfather, and always dreamed of competing someday. Strong themes of breaking barriers, but the topic wasn’t really my thing. Ages 12 and up.
Katie B
The year is 1983 and Vanessa Williams has just become the first African American woman to win the Miss America pageant. Vanessa Martin is living in a New Jersey housing project with her alcoholic grandfather, cousin, and a father who is always working. Even though Vanessa Martin loves beauty pageants, she doesn't want to enter her middle school's pageant because she doesn't think she has a shot at winning. After a new teacher at school encourages her to enter the pageant, Vanessa soon realizes t ...more
Nancy Flood
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing

“Gritty, poetic, and emotionally true” states Rita Williams-Garcia, top award-winning author of a variety of middle-grade books, including One Crazy Summer –

High praise that is well deserved for this feisty and fun book about Vanessa, a persistent girl who struggles against self-doubts to fulfill her dreams. Vanessa is amazed when the talented and beautiful Vanessa Williams wins the title of Miss America, the first Black woman to be crowned with this coveted title. Now it is Vanessa’
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I never thought I would enjoy reading a novel about a beauty pageant contestant, but this one got me. From the moment I started reading, I felt for Vanessa with all of the challenges in her life, along with the mystery of what happened to her mother?
While I never would have looked up the history on what happened with Vanessa Williams's Miss America Win, I enjoyed reading in the end of the book and appreciated the life lessons from this situation as well as from the character Vanessa in the stor
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brenda Kahn
Oh my, how I love this book! The voice, the setting, the characters! I fell in love with Nessy on page one and rooted for her hard.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Engaging! Tami Charles has penned a masterpiece of black girl magic! With exceptional character development, it was easy to root for Vanessa and her family from beginning to end!
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
When Vanessa Williams becomes the first black Miss America in 1983, another Vanessa is inspired to enter her school's first pageant . . . even though she doesn't fit the typical pageant mold.
Ms. Yingling
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Vanessa Martin's life is very different from that of Vanessa Williams. After seeing Williams crowned as the first black Miss America in 1984, Vanessa sees this as a source of hope in her own life. She lives in a struggling neighborhood with her uncommunicative father and her sometimes inebriated grandfather, since her mother is not in the picture. Vanessa tries to make sense of her world by writing in a diary she has named Darlene, and tries to imagine a better life for
Suze Lavender
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's 1983 and Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America. For thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin this is a great milestone, Vanessa Williams is her number one example. Vanessa wants to be just like her idol and is thrilled women of color finally have a chance to win. To make matters even better, her high school is hosting a beauty pageant. Vanessa doesn't think she'll stand a chance though. She doesn't have beautiful clothes, her father doesn't want his daughter to have anything to do with pageants ...more
Sam Musher
This is one I had a hard time booktalking based on the flap copy. The kids would go, " pageants?" and pass. Vanessa Williams is not a person they've heard of and pageants aren't part of their world. Now that I've read it I can give them a quickie plot summary and add, "This is a book about a Black girl figuring out that she's beautiful just the way she is," and they are IN. There's so much more going on than that -- friendship, serious family struggles, the complications of a mentor tea ...more
Amber | cozynaturereads 🌿🍃
Finally got my thoughts together...

This book was really good 😭 I haven’t enjoyed a middle grade this good since I read Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. This story follows Vanessa Martin. She is 14. Overweight. Live in the ghetto with her Grandpa , cousin TJ and her estranged father.

Vanessa sees Vanessa William win the American Beauty Pageant and Vanessa wants to be everything that comes with that. Beautiful , popular the whole nine. Now Vanessa is very shy. She can sing and it w
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade novel from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I was drawn to this story because the main character, Vanessa Martin, dreams of one day becoming Miss America after Vanessa Williams becomes the first black woman to win the crown in 1983. I was thirteen and an eighth grader in 1983 also, and so absolutely gobbled up all the cultural references sprinkled throughout the book.

I also remember what it was like to be that age
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to @kidlitexchange for providing the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

When I was growing up, I was very much like Vanessa. I watched the Miss America Pageant every year and dreamed of the day I would wear the crown and get my chance to parade down the runway. Every year when the new Miss America was chosen, I had a new role model, but unfortunately Vanessa never did. At least not until 1983, when the first African American woman, Vanessa Williams, was crown
Black Carrie
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-y-a-books
Vanessa Williams was the muse for the book it wouldve been nice if she couldve added a foreward page to the book.

Overall I felt sorry for Vanessa , from the first chapter I'm like this poor girl is missing something and it turned out to be parental love , communication , time , and understanding (from her father) , also she needed her mother who wasn't around anymore her absence was a true mystery.

Vanessa hopes and dreams were so inspiring page after page I wanted her to achieve the
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vanessa Martin, an 8th grader in Newark in the early 80s, has a dream of becoming Ms. America-- a dream that finally seems attainable when she watches Vanessa Williams earn the crown in 1984. Vanessa's story is told both through poems and short notes to her diary, Darlene, as well in first person narrative. Her voice is authentic, and achingly honest as she wrestles with complex family relationships (her beloved alcoholic Pop Pop, her sweet older cousin TJ, her emotionally locked-down dad-- and ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mini Me Rating
Laura Pennington
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Voice for days. I love this story because the main character was so easy to connect with. We can all see a little of ourselves and rekindle that desire to strive for big goals because of someone else who lit the torch before us... or maybe even get motivated to be the first to do something! This debut novel is everything I hoped it would be and more.
Paula Cohen-Martin
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fortunate enough to get to read a preview copy of Like Vanessa by Tami Charles. What a beautifully written novel about a young girl growing up in the projects in Newark who watches Vanessa Williams be crowned the first black Miss America and finds hope there. Hope that she is reluctant to acknowledge. It's listed as Middle Grade but could easily also be YA. Charles's ear for dialogue is spot on. But it's young Nessy's inner voice that really grabbed me. As someone who remembers school in the ear ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I may be a bit biased because i did become apart of this team because my friend has a friend and I love both of them! (: It hits shelves 3.13.18.
I love this book. It belongs in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks cannon alongside books like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin
Vanessa Martin has one dream: to become Miss America just Like Vanessa Willaims. Obviously, (because Caucasians hate us cause they ain't us), Vanessa is discouraged by her choir teacher and classmates.
If that isn't enough to get you to read it, let
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
  • Ashes to Asheville
  • Finding Langston
  • Betty Before X
  • It All Comes Down to This
  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
  • Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice
  • Princess Hair
  • Ahimsa
  • Walking with Miss Millie
  • Miguel's Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote
  • The Journey of Little Charlie
  • Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
  • Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
  • Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court
  • The Marble Queen
  • The Parker Inheritance
See similar books…
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »