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How to fall in love with yourself

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

"Self-love is radical love.

Self-love is radical love.

Self-love is radical love.

Today, I've started my own revolution."

When Nala meets Tye, the boy of her dreams, she feels she isn't good enough for him. Nala is a bit creative with the truth in an attempt to impress Tye. Before she knows what is happening, her fibs have taken on a life of their own. Meanwhile, Nala's relationship with Imani, her cousin, best friend and surrogate sister, becomes increasingly strained as Imani explores new friendships and embraces activism.

Although the plot centres on romantic love, this is a story about the different kinds of love that sustain us. Some, like familial love and even friendship, we may take for granted. The most important love is that which we have for ourselves, without it we can never properly respect ourselves or love other people. Nala learns how to appreciate who she is, and her relationship with herself is the most important one in this story.

Nala is a wonderful character - very real, relatable and witty too. Her inner dialogue is hilarious as are some of the situations in which she finds herself. I love that Nala isn't "perfect" and also how assertive she is. Although Nala isn't completely honest with Tye, she is capable of standing up to him. Nala may pretend certain things, but she never completely surrenders who she is.

Nala resists the pressure to join Inspire Harlem and to conform to some of their ideals. Nala has no problem calling Tye out when he tries to change her or seems more focused on her community work than on Nala herself. As she and Imani grow apart, Nala doesn't shy away from confronting Imani. When Imani herself is hyper-critical of Nala, Nala is well able to stand up to her.

There are so many strong female characters; in addition to Imani and their friend Sadie, Nala has lots of impressive aunts and her grandmother is amazing. At one point, Grandma tells Nala and Imani that as two black women, the most radical thing they can do is "love yourself and each other." Nala has a difficult relationship with her mother who doesn't seem to have learned the lesson in self-love at the core of this story. Despite this, even Nala's mother has sage advice, telling her: "You don't strike me as a girl who doesn't know who she is, you just need to be confident in who you know you are."

It's fantastic how comfortable Nala is in her body and how she ultimately prioritises her own emotional needs, instead of sacrificing them for a boy. Nala is a wonderful role model for teenage girls, and I wish I had been more like her when I was her age. I love how the author weaves the lyrics of a fictional musician named Blue into the narrative to reflect how Nala is feeling. Just like it does for real teenagers, music helps Nala to express and understand herself. Renée Watson brilliantly captures all the awkwardness, uncertainty and turbulence of adolescence, and creates a compelling character who weathers these storms and emerges triumphant.

About the author:

Renée Watson is a New York Times best-selling author. Piecing Me Together won a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. As well as many middle-grade and young adult novels, Renée has written two acclaimed picture books. Children of New Orleans talk about their experiences of Hurricane Katrina in A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Harlem’s Little Blackbird, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is all about 1920s singer and activist Florence Mills, and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award

Here's a piece Renée Watson wrote for the School Library Journal about Love is a Revolution

Love is a Revolution was published by Bloomsbury in February 2021.

View this book on the publisher's website