I flew through this book, reading the first 50% in just a few hours. Life did get in the way and the rest took a bit longer… sigh. But if I could have spent all day reading this book, I would have. I’ve been sitting on writing this review for a week now, and I’m certain I don’t have the words to describe how incredible this book is… but here we go.
Title: Color Me In
Author: Natasha Diaz
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genres: YA Contemporary
Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.
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?
This story is so powerful, with themes on identity, racism, acceptance, love, forgiveness, and walking away from people who hurt you. I loved slipping into Nevaeh’s head as she struggled with all of these things. Her hurt, her confusion, her determination to do better and get better was beautiful. She’s not an easy character to love at times, as she can be selfish and thoughtless at times, but I never stopped cheering her on as she discovered who she was.
Natasha Diaz’s writing is gorgeous, with incredible descriptions and heart-wrenching poetry. I got chills reading several passages of this book. I mentioned earlier that I could not put this book down—though this book is not necessarily fast-paced, I felt compelled to keep reading as the emotional stakes of the book got higher and higher, right up to the end.
I loved the depiction of several different kinds of relationships in this book. Nevaeh’s frustration with her mother after her parents separate is intense and understandable, yet I loved seeing them grow closer as they learn more about each other. Nevaeh’s anger and grief as she discovers just who her father is was heart wrenching to read. Her relationship with her cousins as she learned to live with them and become friends with them was not an easy journey with her. And her relationship with best friend Stevie is my favorite. There aren’t many platonic relationships between girls and boys in YA that don’t turn romantic, and this is one of those. Their relationship is rocky at times, but there’s one scene in this book between them that made me tear up it was so beautiful. Her love interest, Jesus, is such a sweet guy and I loved how he supported Nevaeh but also grew in his own way.
- I haven’t touched on the rep, since I’m a white Christian woman and have no place to say whether these representations of Black and Jewish culture are accurate. The author says much of this book is autobiographical, which was really interesting to read about in her author’s note. I do feel like reading this book helped me to understand both cultures a little bit better.
- I loved how the end was not a perfect happy ending. There were some things unresolved, things left alone. And I liked that a lot. Life is messy, and the ending felt true to that.
This book was so incredible, so beautiful. Everyone should read it. I cannot wait to read what Natasha Diaz writes next!