Book Review: Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400 pages

Published: February 12, 2019

Publisher:Bloomsbury YA

Genre:  Young Adult, Contemporary

Synopsis:

Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.


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With #MeToo, #TimesUp, #BlackLivesMatter and other movements, social activism has really played a huge part in our society. Their increased momentum has allowed people to be more aware of the social issues surrounding us. So it won’t come as a surprise that contemporary literature will be reflective of modern times, which leads us to Watch Us Rise...

This latest YA novel is the perfect example of student activism. Two teenage girls stand up against prejudice, racism and misogyny and form their own club at their high school. These girls are what today’s teens aspire to be. Their insight and creativity are just what teens look for in student activism. These girls and their fellow students are showing that they care about the issues that matter to them and are willing to voice their opinions on those issues. Teens today strive to model after that ideal. So I am not surprised that this novel has a “young reader” appeal.

Unfortunately, that is the only positive factor this book has.

Trying to read this novel was painful. The writing was poorly done. I had a hard time thinking that this was a realistic story. It felt like it was all over the place. The emotional moments that occurred left me unmoved and seriously contemplating the reason for its inclusion in the novel. I wanted to root for Jasmine and Chelsea but I found them difficult to cheer on, especially Chelsea. She was a whiny character. You are meant to enjoy the evolution of characters from beginning to end but you saw no or very little growing up here. Character development wise, these characters didn’t really go through any change.

This school really was a fictional school. It felt like it was pulled out of a Disney movie. It didn’t feel like a real school. The “teachings” that were conducted in the classrooms? It wasn’t a real classroom. How are teens supposed to find this book relatable when none of the actions that occur was believable? For example, how could a school club continue in existence, without any supervision from a teacher? I may have been out of high school for a long time but I know that would not possibly happen in a real high school. Realistic social issues need to be combined with a realistic story and this one just did not deliver.

The ideas were there, with its artistic poetry and perceptive essays. However, these factors were unable to lift this book to higher standards. This book had so much potential, but it was wasted with its unchallenged writing style and very lacking plot development. This is a definite no for me.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Get It At: Amazon |Barnes & Noble|Book Depository|IndieBoundYour local library

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