Author: Natasha Diaz
Pages: 384 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Release Date: August 20th, 2019
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
*Thank you Sazon Book Tours and Delacorte for a review copy in exchange for my honest review and the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour*
Who is Nevaeh Levitz?
Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.
Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.
It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?
Not many books completely sell me with the synopsis alone, but this was one of few. Color Me In was such a phenomenal read full of so many tough and sensitive topics. Natasha’s writing is almost lyrical, like a song/poem that tells a vivid vibrant story. This story also was inspired by the author’s own life experiences which gave it more of a realistic and relatable feel. When you felt it, you knew the author felt it while writing it. Color Me In tackles many issues such as racism, poverty, mental illness, sexual assault in a way that is raw but true to the character development in the character experiencing it.
We follow the main character Nevaeh, as she adjusts to moving into a new home, her parents’ separation and learning so much more about both her parents and the family she is now getting to know. Nevaeh has such a character development track that I really enjoyed. She was a person who prior to living and getting to know her African American cousins, didn’t understand her black heritage and didn’t realize how her privilege allowed her to walk through the world differently than her cousins Janae and Jordan. Although half African American, Nevaeh is pretty white passing due her Jewish [father’s] side. Her cousin Jordan reminds her of that daily and it takes hearing Jordan’s view on the world and an incident in her school for her to truly realize how different the world treats her cousins. The journey is sometimes painful to read and I honestly cried hearing Jordan’s story because it is so real to many girls like her. Being biracial, Nevaeh’s growth and journey to love herself and to embrace her black heritage more is such an incredible story.
Although the main character, Nevaeh wasn’t the focal point of the story. This story was character driven which allowed each side character to have some shine and tell their story. Each character had their own struggle and with that struggle they grew and was essentially to complimenting Nevaeh in her journey. Twins Janae and Jordan were two of my favorite characters. they are fierce, unapologetic and have such beautiful story arcs. We also learn a little bit more about her mother as Nevaeh reads through her mother’s journal. However, with just the snippets we received, I wanted to know more about her mom. We can see that the separation is really affecting her mother, a woman who had to rely on someone to provide. It is not clear whether it was a choice or not, but I assumed her mother didn’t want to have a living like that. Now, not all characters were lovable. The author did so well portraying Nevaeh’s father who was less than savory. Throughout the story we learn more about what kind of person Nevaeh’s father really was, why he prevented Nevaeh and her mother from seeing this side of the family and possibly how he was pretty racist [I’m assuming but it felt pretty on the nail]. Her father was an easy man to dislike and only help to understand Nevaeh and her view or lack there of of the world.
Along with the supporting characters, we were introduced to such vibrant relationships. My favorite relationship developments were between Nevaeh and Rabbi Sarah and Nevaeh and her auntie. Rabbi Sarah was an unorthodox Hebrew teacher who really helped Nevaeh in her journey and was also support to preparing Nevaeh for her very delayed bat mitzvah. However, the relationship between Nevaeh and her aunt was so realistic and relatable. I truly appreciated seeing their relationship grow and Nevaeh learn more about the family she was learning more and more about.
This book focused on racism and privilege and it did it so well. Nevaeh never had to think about her privilege prior to living with her mother’s family because it wasn’t something that she had to think of. Now she faces it front and center. The author shows this experience in a way that is very relatable in the real world but essential to Nevaeh’s character development. Nevaeh is made to be uncomfortable to face the reality that not everyone can easily walk the world as she has and can continue to do. This allows Nevaeh to think about her privilege and how she can use it toward helping those she loves in a way that empowers all.
Overall this book was heart wrenching, raw, empowering and brilliant. It is such an amazing story full of character driven stories. It is not plot driven, which works for this particular story because the characters have so much to tell and you want to learn more about them and how they interconnect with Nevaeh. Along with the characters, you have the visual beauty of Harlem as the backdrop. If you are looking for a debut novel that tackles sensitive matters in a profound way and a cast of characters you will grow to love and dislike [ in the case of Nevaeh’s father and stepmother] you will enjoy this story.
About the Author
Natasha Diaz is a freelance writer and producer originally hailing from NYC and currently residing in Oakland, CA. As a screenwriter, Natasha has placed as a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her personal essays have been published in The Establishment and The Huffington Post. Natasha’s debut young adult novel, Color Me In, will be published by Random House imprint Delacorte Press in 2019. Natasha is represented by 3 Arts Entertainment.
And now I leave you with one of my Favorite quotes from the book:
All photo and info credit provided through Goodreads!