Nala’s priorities for the summer before her senior year do not include activism, but they do include finding love. So when she begrudgingly tags along to an Inspire Harlem event with her cousin Imani and meets charismatic Tye Brown, she decides an interest in social justice might not be so bad after all. But as she feigns a full slate of volunteer commitments and an in-depth knowledge of social movements (not to mention a vegetarian diet), Nala quickly realizes she’s in over her head. Her relationship with Imani becomes strained, and she finds herself sacrificing more and more of her real self in exchange for Tye’s love. As her lies finally unravel, Nala learns that loving herself is the real revolution.
In Love Is a Revolution, Newbery Honor author Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together) spins a fresh teen love story. Though Nala and Tye’s budding romance takes center stage for much of the book, readers are most likely to see themselves in Nala’s relationships with her friends, her family and herself. From Nala’s efforts to impress Tye by achieving a “Black-girl-natural chic look,” to her secret ice-cream-and-advice meetings with her grandmother’s boyfriend, to her feminist dance parties with her friend Sadie, Watson builds this book on small, detailed moments that bring each character into focus. The authenticity and specificity of these relationships make the growing rift between Nala and Imani feel real and immediate as both girls learn to love themselves and each other.
Nala’s lies are eventually exposed, forcing her to reckon with who she actually is versus what she wants others to believe about her. Watson handles this moment with respect and nuance, propelling Nala to the right path without pretending the journey will be easy. Readers who have struggled with identifying who they are or who they’re supposed to be, navigating evolving relationships or practicing “radical self-love” will find Love Is a Revolution to be an inspiring guide—not to mention a delightful read.