Watch Us Rise

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

The story of Jasmine and Chelsea's junior year is told with a focus on their growing feminist activism, sometimes overwhelming plot and character development.  Jasmine's grief over her father's death (an inevitable event from the start of the book) seems to melt away too quickly as the girls work to bring about societal change.  What saves the book is how well Watson and Hagan write.  The alternating viewpoints and the inclusion of the characters' poems will draw in teen readers.
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I worship at the altar of Renee Watson’s novels and you should too because she’s a fountain of brilliant contemporary kidlit. We’ve all got that author we evangelize to others and Watson is mine. A novel with her name on it co-written with a poet? One that features teenage activism and them fighting the power? YES PLEASE.

Readers get a dual POV novel narrated by Jasmine, a fat Black girl, and Chelsea, a white girl who presumably wears straight sizes but at the very least is nowhere near Jasmine’s size. I bring their body sizes up because it’s relevant; Jasmine and Chelsea have been best friends for years and are together in their management of the Write Like a Girl blog, but Chelsea fails to really see Jasmine sometimes. When the two go check out a new clothing store, Chelsea finds a bunch of clothing whilst Jasmine sees only two racks of plus-size clothes and is told most of the larger sizes are only online. Then when Chelsea orders shirts to support Write Like a Girl, she doesn’t order a shirt big enough to fit Jasmine comfortably.

The point: even in progressive spaces and when among friends who are allies in the fight for human rights, bigotry is still present. Being left-wing or liberal doesn’t automatically make a person or a space anti-bigotry. That’s something people have to actively work for! People who call themselves liberals can be just as hideously racist as Donald Trump, for instance. This is something Jasmine knows all too well thanks to Chelsea’s size-blindness and that Chelsea comes to learn as well when their “progressive” high school’s administration objects to Write Like a Girl’s posts and shuts the whole thing down when some classmates use a school dance as an opportunity to make fun of Jasmine’s and Chelsea’s ideas.

When you’re protesting an issue and your so-called allies do exactly the thing you’re protesting against, it can make fighting for what’s right all the more draining. But these girls don’t quit when it gets tough. Jasmine eventually calls Chelsea out, the two of them work together to fight back against their school’s censorship, and their club is so empowering even when it’s fictional and only on the page. It makes you dream of fighting back against the same pressures in your life. If you’re not a teen or no longer in school while reading this, it might make you reflect on your time in school like it made me do.

Just don’t take anyone or anything at its word when it calls itself progressive. That’s what the girls’ high school markets itself as, but I wouldn’t say the place is progressive to any degree when Chelsea tells the principal directly that she was sexually harassed by the student body president earlier the same day and Principal Hayes responds by doing NOTHING. He really, truly deserved a kick to the reproductives.

Sadly, his response is quite realistic. When three boys sexually harassed me on the school bus for weeks in junior high, their punishment was merely being assigned seats at the front of the bus. Students harassed me during school? Absolutely nothing. Heck, my ninth grade gym class was one big Title IX violation and I had no idea! Had I been aware of Title IX at the time and tried to report it to the administration, I highly doubt anything would have changed. This was only ten years ago. Call me a cynic, but I doubt the schools I went to are doing any better now in those regards.

ANYWAY. One element of Watch Us Rise that didn’t work for me was its timeline, being that the entire novel takes place over the course of a single school year. The events feel artificially stretched out at times and it left me with an odd feeling I was missing events in their lives. Though I read the book in almost a single sitting, that choice messed with the pacing and messed with my sense of time.

If Watson and Hagan collaborate on another YA novel in the future, I’ll read it. If Hagan publishes a solo YA novel, I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve still got it on my list to check out some of her poetry after seeing what she came up with in Watch Us Rise! Teens will learn a great deal about activism while enjoying a well-written story with a diverse, unique cast of characters.
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I really enjoyed this novel. I would highly recommend that adolescents read this or parents of young girls read it with them. I found it relatable, necessary, and powerful.  I really enjoyed the feminist resources shared at the end of the novel.
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I didn't end up finishing this book in time, but what I read I loved. I think it's great for teens to find role models of community activism in their reading. I'm a huge Renee Watson fan and I ordered this book for our collection and I'm sure will recommend.
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3.5 stars - Originally I was going to give this the full four stars but upon reflection I think it's more of a 3.5 star

First I want to say that I did enjoy this book. I really liked reading about the characters and their daily lives. I thought our two main characters were fleshed out decently, but I liked Jasmine more than Chelsea. Jasmine just had more going on and I just found it nicer to be in her head. I liked the side characters as well, but I didn't feel like we got to know them as well as we could have. I also wasn't a huge fan of one of the love interests (although I'm not sure I was supposed to be). I thought the writing was rather plain, which just made it all the more readable in my opinion. I did enjoy the poetry that was included as "blog posts" for the most part but I did feel like it became a little over used as a writing device at some parts.

My biggest problem was unfortunately also the biggest reason l was drawn to the book. The descriptions of different feminist ideas just felt so overt and heavy handed. The girls started a blog for their club that ends up reading almost exactly like my tumblr from when I was 16 and just getting into feminism and taking things up to 11. I really wanted more nuance from the discussions that the girls were having and I just didn't get it. When topics that the girls either didn't agree with or didn't understand were brought up I felt like those were just steamrolled over with little discussion or even acknowledgement.

Also this is just a logistical problem, but the girls getting in trouble for selling shirts for their club because they hadn't asked for the principal's permission didn't make sense. If anyone was to blame it was their adviser for that. Wouldn't it have made sense for their adviser to ask some questions when they showed up in her classroom with these shirts? 

I want to say that I know I would have absolutely LOVED this as a teen, so I would recommend this for teens who are getting into feminism and are feeling hopeless, because I do think the book does inspire some hope. But I'd only want them to read this if it can be followed up with some more nuanced discussions and why not everything the girls did was correct.
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If you ever wondered what, if anything, you could do to change things read Watch Us Rise. Best friends Jasmine and Chelsea decide to highlight the treatment of women and minorities at their school and shake things up. While not everything goes according to plan, they start a club Write Like a Girl dedicated to support the artistic expression of women and focus on feminist issues. Its  blog attracts a following and they make definitely make an impact at their school and in their community.
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I loved this book. I was so taken with the main characters and their ability to be simultaneously wise beyond their years and insistently teenagers all at once, and I love how real their voices felt. I loved the variety of feminist issues the book takes up, from body positivity/fat acceptance to intersectionality to sexual harassment to youth rights and adultism. I teach classes that are nearly even split between white college students and students of color, many of whom are from New York City, and I really think that the alternating voices format, and the way the book allows the reader to experience the book's world from multiple perspectives, will resonate well with my students. I can't wait to recommend it to them, and am strongly considering adopting this book for my Sociology of Gender course in the fall.
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The Characters

Honestly, the characters were not that memorable. We have Jasmine–who is tired of her theater drama club because of the insensitivity and enforcing of black stereotypes and the Chelsea–who is fed up with her poetry club because of its lack of racial and gender representation in the poets they are studying.

We also learn about each of their family struggles, such as Jasmine’s dad battling cancer and Chelsea dealing with her family’s lack of “wokeness” and standing up for themselves. These parts of the book were interesting but it didn’t make me that invested in the story. We also have some side characters who I, unfortunately, do not for the life of me remember their names but I just didn’t care too much for them either.

The Narrative

This was definitely a “teaching” and “artsy”  book. This isn’t a bad thing and the book had more substance because of it. We got to read all the blog post and poems Jasmine and Chealse posted on their feminist blog. One aspect that I thought was a bit much was that we also got to read the comments and reblogs which I thought was a bit tiresome to read. It could be because of my ebook copy but I glossed through those parts. There was also artwork throughout the book which I appreciated.

I also said this was a teaching book because the audience gets to learn about all of these famous women and their contributions to our society. Again, this book is perfect for young readers because most of them don’ t get to learn about these women in the public school system.

Intersectionality

I did like the discussions of intersectionality because it’s something that is overshadowed in a lot of feminist literature. Yes, feminism deals with “women struggles” but we tend to forget that women of color, LGBTQIA+ women, women with disabilities are often left in the gutter in these discussions.

I think teenagers need to be more aware of intersectionality in feminism because, in my opinion, it’s the type we should be focusing on right now. Jasmine is fat and black so she faces a greater struggle than Chelsea, who is white and skinny. Although Chelsea is a progressive feminist, she isn’t aware of the body positivity or fat acceptance culture and so when she’s ordering shirt sizes for their protest, she doesn’t go past a size large.

Last Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. It sort of reminds me of Dear White people because of its tackling on microaggressions. However, I think the messages were too in your face rather than subtle which I enjoy more. However, this is a young adult book and sometimes teenagers need these explicit messages and I can understand why the authors made the narrative choice. I personally didn’t learn anything new but I think if your a black teen or a non-white teenager, you might gain something from the book.
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WATCH US RISE by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan is a YA novel about two friends, Chelsea (a poet) and Jasmine (who loves to write and act).  I was really looking forward to this book because of how much I had enjoyed Watson's Piecing Me Together.  Sadly, this collaboration did not have the same impact for me.  These two characters are frustrated with the situation at their school (largely driven by unrealistic and uncaring adult figures).  Together, Chelsea and Jasmine strive to make an impact with a new blog as they also cope with a diagnosis of terminal cancer for Jasmine's father. I found the text to be rather "preach-y" and think that Publishers Weekly summarized it best: "strong messaging can sometimes bog down the book's pace." Note, however, that School Library Journal gave WATCH US RISE a starred review and it has received positive reader reviews at GoodReads so it may appeal to budding feminists, especially students in late middle and early high school.
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I really enjoyed the depiction portrayed in this book. It read a little young, but that was clearly the intent. I love Renee Watson and have become a good fan of Ellen Hagan. I need publishers to take note, we need more books like this being written. I'm so glad I got an ARC of this and get the chance to tell people to read it.
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Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan and was published by Bloomsbury YA in 2019. Watson is the author of several books, including A Place Where Hurricanes Happen and What Momma Left Me. She is also the creator of the one woman show Roses are Red, Women are Blue and she has had poetry and articles published in Rethinking Schools, Theatre of the Mind, and With Hearts Ablaze. Hagan is a poet and a feminist with books including Hemisphere: Poems, Crowned, and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism.

Watch Us Rise follows Jasmine and Chelsea as they deal with sexism and racism in their progressive NYC high school. They begin a Women’s Rights Club to protest this, posting articles and essays calling out the system and people they encounter. When the club is threatened to be shut down, they have to find a way to make their voices heard.

A special thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury YA for sending me a digital copy.

I’ll start with the negatives, just to get them out of the way.

First, I was expecting perspectives from the core four characters, Jasmine, Chelsea, Nadine, and Isaac. The way the first chapter is structured, I assumed that’s what would happen, but the chapters were restricted to Jasmine and Chelsea. I think this works well, though there are a few times in the beginning when I have to remind myself whose perspective we are in.We also don't hear from Nadine very often, making me wonder why she is here in the first place other than representation.

Second, the presentation of the issues, ranging from body image to racial media stereotypes to the gross lack of justice for molestation and rape victims, is very episodic. Everything is presented per chapter. One chapter on body image from Jasmine, one from Chelsea, each get a turn at stereotypes, etc. Towards the end, it starts to blend a bit more, but not much. I get it’s hard to cover every woman’s issue in 400 pages, but it got to the point where it would mention something and I would think “okay, we’re talking about this now.”

There’s also two romances that occur, only one I really care about. Halfway through the book, things seem to be going good for everyone—a few bumps, but nothing too serious—and the story seems to shift gears and revolve around the two guys. It was fine. Jasmine’s romance is adorable and I’m 100% for it. Chelsea’s on the other hand felt . . . dull. I know why it was done but it also felt unnecessary; adding little to no real conflict. If Watson and Hagan had done one or two more scenes with Meg, perhaps it would have felt more fulfilling, but it didn’t. Perhaps they are saving that for a book two?

Now for the praise!

Oh my word! This book is so good! I usually avoid things that make me angry but this was a good anger, even if I had to walk away a few times to cool off. 

The characters are great and I love how they interact and deal with problems and each other. Chelsea is quick tempered and hot headed but has a strong voice.She’s ready to fight anyone and anything if it means bringing justice to a group, though sometimes it seems like she picks fights without a clear goal other than to call people out. Jasmine is calmer and wants to make a difference but she is also not afraid to call people out if need be. She’s also going through a family tragedy as the book begins and progresses which doesn’t really play into the feminist themes until the end, but it is still something relatable. Out of the two, I related to Jasmine the most. 

Each chapter ends with a poem, article, playlist, etc. created by the characters and has to do with the events of the chapters. These alone are amazing to read and a great inspiration for anyone interested in writing their own. I also like how there is a comment stream at the end similar to what you would find at the end of blog posts or youtube comments. There are also resources at the end of the book for anyone wanting to follow the examples set in the book. 

I loved seeing the way everything plays out, how older women support these high school students, how family members can hold different beliefs and practices yet still love each other, how there is no definitive answers, just students learning how to take a stand and what to do to get their message across.

As I said before, I don’t like reading things that make me angry and I had to take breaks with this book. But, I was always eager to come back to this read. Watch Us Rise is an inspirational book for high schoolers and young women alike. I can’t wait to get an official copy. For anyone curious about feminism or for anyone who sees an issue but doesn’t know how to bring attention to it, Watson and Hagan have a great example. I highly recommend this book.
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(4.8⭐)
#MindBlowing #WriteLikeAGirl 
The thing I love most about this book is that it's not about just one issue. It's not JUST about minorities, or JUST about sexism, or JUST about feminism, or JUST about victim blaming, or JUST about body imagining, or any other -ism. It's about all of those things, more or less, and I say less because we still deal your everyday high school petty problems but at the same time we still get to deal with the bigger social issues as well. 

The plot is balanced out really well to the point where it's not so heavy to read the entire time you're reading. I love that this book is sending the message that even in places where everyone is trying to be so "diverse" something is still going to get looked over, some people are still not genuine & only doing it because its the "cool" thing to do, some people still think their cause is more important than yours, & some people are still going to find time to talk shit under their breaths. It spoke the truth that diveresty is a dangerous thing simply because everyone isn't joining the cause for the right reasons, some people are genuine while some have ulterior motives.

I absolutely love the blog post!! They weren't just single paragraphs, they were actually very well thought out and I felt like I was reading real authentic articles. I couldn't get enough!

Character wise, I feel like if you take part of Jasmine and part of Chelsea, mix it with sugar, spice, & everything nice you would have me. I connect with both characters on a certain level and I love that you can really see their development throughout the book.

On the flip side I do wish I could have heard from Issaic and Nadine more seeing that they were supposed to be such close friends, being the fab four and all (or something like that). I just felt like they were lazily thrown in but at the same time I can also see that maybe switching through 4 different perspectives could get ambitious or tiring and make an already 400 page book even longer.

I absolutely loved the resources for young activists section at the end of the book where they recommend poets, books, blogs, & organizations that contribute to the cause. I thought that was a really unique way to keep the conversation going even after the book ends. 

I absolutely loved this book and most definitely recommend it to girls and Womyn(see Watch Us Rise for reference to this spelling) of all ages. Thank you Netgalley for sending this amazing book my way!
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When I saw this book, I knew I had to get my hands on it! Thank you @netgalley and @bloomsbury for the opportunity to review this for an honest review. #blessed

The narrative is shared by Chelsea and Jasmine, two “womyn” at a almost utopian sounding social justice focused high school. All students’ clubs are social justice focused, from math,  “justice in numbers” to science, where they learn about food deserts in their own neighborhoods and read medical ethics books on Henrietta Lacks. 

The school feels like a progressive student’s dream, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, as an incident in poetry club leads Chelsea and Jasmine to start a women’s rights club. By starting a blog, they struggle to make things right within an already seemingly progressive space. 

I wish this book had existed when I was a teen. I found it to be a good resource for womyn and girls who want to make changes within their spaces. If anything it would help these students feel less alone. The poetry and blog entries are beautiful and inspiring. There are also two other characters who are part of the friend group, an artist, Isaac and Dj, Nadine. Isaac feels fairly developed while I wished Nadine had contributed a bit more besides playlists, but to be fair, this novel was most successful when it was focusing on the students’ original goals. 

This novel is ambitious at times, and starts to throw everything on the table at times, to show the appropriate way to handle all types of oppression/harassment, but I also feel that it was intended to show how-to, and therefore wanted to cover as much ground as possible. 

Overall, I enjoyed the characters and the realities that they faced. I liked that they were progressives pushing against complacency and false activism/intentions. I would love to have this book in my classroom for students who sometimes feel that their struggles aren’t worthwhile, because it highlights the power and determination of one voice. 4/5 ⭐️
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I am sooo excited to be talking about Watch Us Rise finally! I loved reading this book soo much like I can not even describe how much. I knew a little about what the book was about going into it but once I started this book I could not stop, I was hooked.

SPOILERS AHEAD

This book centers around two main characters with a cast of side characters that include their two other best friends, kids at their school, teachers, the principal, their families, and the boys they like. Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends living in NYC attending a high school that is supposed to be progressive. Each student at the school is required to be a part of an after-school club however, the girls decide its time to step away from their clubs and make their own. One about women’s rights and one where they can speak their minds about issues at the school and in the community. However, the clubs required blog soon begins to cause a stir at the school and the principal threatens to shut the girls and their club down. Meanwhile, the girls each have their own crush and boy drama going on and Jasmine has some big changes coming at home that not only affect her but will affect her whole social group.

As things progress someone reads one of the girl’s blog posts at an open mic and the video goes online. From here things only get bigger, and the girls have to make some really tough choices about what exactly they are fighting for and what they plan to demand.

I really love this book and I plan to get a finished copy at some point. I am really shocked I liked this book because if I am honest I have not read a lot in this type of genre and I felt like it was not my thing. I think this book was a five star read for me for several reasons, for example, I loved the plot of Jasmine’s family (despite how heartbreaking it truly was) and the each of the subplots were just as interesting to read as the main plot. I definitely recommend picking this up even if you do not think this is the book for you, grab it from a library and give it a try.
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Watch Us Rise is a feminist manifesto for today’s young adults. It’s the story of Jasmine and Chelsea, two high school juniors in New York City who are fed up with the micro-aggressions in their school and decide to combat them by establishing a Women’s Rights Club. Amsterdam Heights High School claims to espouse and model social justice and equity, but when reactions to their Write Like a Girl blog “incite discord,” the club is disbanded. Rather than accept the Principal’s decision, the young “womyn” take their peaceful protests to the neighborhood and the local newspaper. Will their persistence pay off? 

This story is a testament to the power of positive modeling. Both Jasmine and Chelsea’s parents are liberal and civic-minded and have taught and encouraged their daughters to use their art as activism. In fact, Jasmine’s father, who is dying of cancer, challenges Jasmine, Chelsea and their friends Isaac and Nadine (whom he calls artivists) to “Go out and find some inspiration. Create some art in response to what you see.” Their poems, writings, songs, and drawings, combined with the narrative alternating between Jasmine and Chelsea, create an intersectional kaleidoscope of their reactions to the racism, fat-shaming, misogyny, discrimination and sexism they face daily.

This book is groundbreaking and a much-needed portrayal of the struggles today’s young women continue to face. It sends a powerful message that words and actions can have positive impact and that change can begin with a single action. This is an essential purchase for any library serving teens and should be required reading as a springboard for open, honest dialogue.



I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bloomsbury through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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WATCH US RISE is the intersectional feminist YA contemporary book every girl is (probably) looking for -- I know that I could have definitely used it when I was in middle/high school. This book goes back and forth between the two main characters, Jasmine and Chelsea, who are looking to make the most of their time and their art by starting a Women's Rights Club (all school's need this, tbh).

One of my favorite things about this book is that the person that pushes Jasmine and her friends to embrace their cultures/races/gender and use their art skills to enhance their activism is Jasmine's father (who we immediately find out is dying of stage 4 cancer). 

I also love what they named their Women's Rights Club -- Write Like a Girl. Also, I don't know if this counts as a spoiler, but I 100% love the way Ms. Lucas calls out the girls and tells them they have more to learn about women's rights after they criticize her for having to go home and cook dinner. Older feminist women gently mentor the girls, making sure they check their privilege and the way their activism can ostracize people and actually hurt their movement rather than help it.

Part of feminism is about introspection and realizing and coming to terms with your own biases. These biases can be in regards to race, but often it is about the way women are pitted against each other: moms vs. women without children; working women vs. homemakers; high level career women vs. blue collar women; married women vs. single women; "attractive" women vs. "unattractive women". The list goes on and on, but I appreciate the fact that WATCH US RISE doesn't ignore this issue.

In regards to the writing style: there's not a whole lot of negative things I can say about the style of the book itself. I do like that it includes the personal writings of the characters (such as poems) and that the characters themselves represents intersectional feminism in that one character is a black girl and the other is a white girl. I thought there would be an issue with two authors (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't) but in this case, the chapters flow together and it doesn't feel choppy.

However, I personally felt that it needed more of a balance between the dialogue and description (it was weighted more towards dialogue), but that's a personal preference of mine and it certainly wasn't tilted enough to make it unreadable in any way. There are some blocky paragraphs that I would have personally split up, but keeping in mind that I'm reading the ARC of PDF, it could be a formatting issue. 

Books like WATCH US RISE deserve to be lifted up and supported. Reading fiction is about having a "lived through" experience -- oftentimes the lessons we learn in books stick with us longer and  more fully than the lessons we learn in classes. It's important to have books like this written in the genres of YA/MG; when teenagers have a lived through experience about intersectional feminism through the eyes of kids their own age, it's an experience that they can feel truly immersed and represented in. It can even be a form of catharsis and inspiration for readers who go through similar situations that are mirrored in the book. 

If you're Konmari-ing your library, this is a book to add and keep, especially if you're an adult looking for books for teenagers. I'm definitely putting this on my To-Buy list to add to my extensive library!
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A great feminist young adult novel that manages to portray the issues of third wave feminism, particularly intersectionality. The narrative is split between Jasmine, an African American writer and actress, and Chelsea, a white poet. The girls are inspired to start a feminist writing club to push back against certain racist, sexist tendencies at their school, and as their writings become more popular, their conflicts increase.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publish for the e-ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. 

I really enjoyed this book, and I don't always enjoy books about feminism because they rarely address intersectional feminism. I liked the Watson and Hagan address this issue with their story and poems and show how even when one thinks they are being a feminist to everyone we are often a little blind to the issues that don't directly effect us. Many of the points brought up in this novel remind me points that Roxane Gay makes in her book "Bad Feminist" and how no matter how hard we try to be conscious and aware there are sometimes parts of us that feel guilty for seeking out aspects of the world we feel know we should be against, but that's okay because it makes us human. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a novel with two strong female leads who demonstrate a strong/positive support system for one another or want a book that deals with taking down the patriarchy. 

4.5/5
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I loved everything about this book! Wonderful, realistic characters, beautiful pacing, and a timely plot. I felt ALL of the emotions over the course of this book, but most of all I felt hopeful. The interspersed poetry, blogs, and comments make it even more compelling. A true must read.
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The overall message is good but my main problem with this book is with the lack of plot structure, huge lack of plot development and low deficiency of character development. I believe with that with such an ongoing issue, this YA novel could have been structured better. I will say that it is a good book to discuss the female issues that plague our society, something that young people need to have an open discussion about. But as a book with an entertaining and structurally sound story(a necessity that is needed in a book), this novel is not right for readers.
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