Color Me In

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

This book did a great job of showing the struggle of trying to reconcile two identities within oneself. I enjoyed the look at Nevaeh's mother's journal as well. Great book!
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This was soooo good! Being a person of mixed race myself, I really enjoyed the representation in this. I love how it gave some light to some of the internal conflict one has when being brought up with two different cultures and both races being completely opposite. I liked the friendships and the family used in this story as well. Definitely recommend for everyone to read!
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Whenever I first received this book I received it as an arc copy from Netgalley. However I never got around to actually reading it until this month. I really loved the main character Nevaeh and how religion played a minor part in the plot of the story. She had to come to terms with her parents separating and I feel like that helped her become a well rounded character in the end. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I feel like I will read her other works as they are published as well.
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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. The things I liked most about this book are the cover and title because it makes you get a glimpse into the main problem centered in book right away. I also loved the character development and how nothing was glossed over. The family struggles, the racial struggles, all of it felt very real and I appreciated the rawness of this story. It broke my heart and I hope this book is a mirror to those who need to hear that they belong and a window for those that need to see what other's face in our world today, simply because of the color of their skin.
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This book was really good and interesting. This was a story of a girl who is trying to figure out her place in 2 different worlds. The people who surround her and hep her grow made the story so good. I couldn’t put it down.
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If my memory serves me right, Color Me In in the first book with a biracial MC written by a biracial author I have ever read. And the fact that this was written by someone who knows what they're talking about SHOWS, nothing quite like living the biracial experience to get it right on page. And although I am not white passing so I did not relate to a lot of the things going down in the book, some of the feelings mirrored mine so perfectly that I couldn't help but feel seen in a way.

Although I went in expecting this to be about a biracial girl who doesn't quite fit in with either one of her communities, in many ways, it was different from what I expected. But not in a bad way. Navaeh is the daughter of a Jewish man and a Black woman, who is very white passing, getting the classic and extremely racist question of whether her mom is her babysitter, her mom getting suspicious looks whenever she takes her out, etc... really pleasant Black experience (not 🙃). This book not only tackled her experience as a biracial person struggling to belong but also her white passing privilege head on, which I really appreciated. I was scared this would turn into a one-woman pity party that didn't look at the other side of coin. 

And although at first she got on my nerves because of how focused she was on her own struggles that she failed to see and acknowledge that she still held a HUGE amount of privilege and that people had it harder with you know...system racism and oppression. But as the book went on, she underwent character development and I ended up really liking how her story was handled and who she becomes by the time I flipped to the last page.

One thing that made my reading experience less enjoyable than it could have been is how...two dimensional the side characters were. The author chose one characteristic for each one of them and used it to build their whole personality around. For example: Her little cousin is a chubby little boy and most times he was mentioned or in page, it was something related to his love for food. Then her older dark-skinned cousin's only purpose in the novel was to call her out on her privilege and whenever she went out of her line. He loves food, she loves a good call-out, okay I get it but what else is there to them? The only two characters I felt were well crafted are the MC and her love interest. Then another instance of poor character development is her mom, she was really depressed after her parents got divorced, barely getting out of bed, speaking to anyone and always crying, but after one session of therapy, she was up and waltzing around the house. What? 

Okay, but to finish this review on a positive note, as I was reading, this actually beautifully written book, I stumbled across this quote that I just had to keep reading over and over and over again because of how true it rang with me and how much I loved it, so I want to share it: 

"I hope one day she'll allow herself to know what it feels like to feel safe and loved. I hope that one day she finds arms she can crumble into, even if they're her own"
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I switched between the eARC and audio recordings of this book in order to finish it more quickly and utilize my commute time.  I read this book in just over a day.  It flowed quickly and the topic was always fresh and interesting.  I especially enjoyed the Jewish aspect of Neveah's identity.  Many of my students will identify with the feeling of being caught between two cultures as well as seeing their parents' relationship crumble.  
It took the entire first half of the book for characters to start to solidify.  Before that point it was confusing to keep the minor characters' straight.
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I found ‘Color Me In’ as a thought-provoking story about Neveah Levitz, a 16 year old girl having to live through the trauma of divorce and leaving her childhood home in White Plains. Neveah moves to Harlem with her mother. Harlem was her mother’s childhood home, yet Neveah struggles to identify with her close-yet-distant extended family and cousins in this new environment. Being a bi-racial young woman, Neveah struggles to re-discover her own identity through a close-knit community, and finding her own voice through the written word.

‘Color Me In’ is a very intense story, as it handles the issues of race and culture through the eyes of someone struggling to understand her own place in society. The story itself is written in lovely prose as well. If you haven’t picked up your copy of ‘Color Me In’ yet, you definitely should. You won’t be disappointed! 

Cathleen (Woven From Words)
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I wanted so much from this title and there was so much that could have been! It just didn't grab me and hold me in, and if it did that for me, I can't recommend it for my students.
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While I loved the themes and underlying message in this book about embracing identity whilst acknowledging privilege, COLOR ME IN ultimately fell flat for me. The central character was understandably flawed, but her character growth felt bumpy and inconsistent. Her romance with Jesus was underdeveloped and often told retroactively, like that she'd been thinking of him lately (without showing that in the text) or that he'd started reading her favorite books (without showing us that conversation) so I felt an absence of investment in their relationship. Frankly, much of the book was told in this retroactive format, which I think was caused by the long timeline. Chapters felt unnaturally clunked together because they skips weeks ahead during times where seeing Neveah struggle with her friendships or family conflicts or being suspended would've been helpful in developing her overall growth and personal relationships. Because the book tried to accomplish so many things at once, every relationship and specific struggle of Neveah's were only marginally developed; giving the overall feeling of reading an undercooked book. Much of the prose was absolutely lovely and honestly outshined the segments of poetry and I liked what the book was trying to accomplish, especially as someone of mixed cultural descent myself, but I walked away from reading this unfortunately disappointed.
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>Unique POV & voice
>Didn’t want to put it down & couldn’t stop thinking of it
>Love Nevaeh and her straight boy best friend. 
>It’s about family, found family, and community
>While both sides of her family is religious, it’s not about religion.
>There’s no ”saving her soul” tug of war fight going on between the different religions
>Typical young love, realistically rendered
>Former childhood friend turned enemy 
>Mother suffering through a depressive episode
>Sexual assault journaled about
>Love how the mother’s journal was resolved
>Rabbi that I surprisingly liked 
>The mini Rabbi in training is adorable
>Colorism illustrated and handled well, especially re: burdens on black women
>All the women are amazing in their own ways
>As are Nevaeh’s uncle and grandfather
>That bat mitzvah!!!!
>There are a lot of elements that others have made whole books out of alone, and they’re juggled beautifully. Everything was given the proper space or weight. Kids have a lot to contend with these days and Nevaeh gets overwhelmed but the narrative doesn’t. 
>Perfect for fans of Nicole Yoon, Elizabeth Acevedo’s work, especially The Poet X, 
>There are several other 2019 books that sound like perfect comps too, but I haven’t read them yet, like: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, Full Disclosure, Let Me Hear a Rhyme, This Time Will Be Different, I Wanna Be Where You ARe.
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Color Me In took me so long to read, but it was definetely an experience!

I loved the message of this book, which was admittedly something I've never given much thought to - the everyday struggles of white-passing people of color. Color Me In has such a strong message about race that every resader can learn something from, even if they're educated already.

The main theme wasn't just race; family, bullying, and friendship are also subjects touched on in this novel. I loved Neveah's family members and how they all interacted with each other (except for one character, who was totally dislikable - but that was on purpose). In fact, every character, whether major or minor to the story, had some kind of interesting and realisticly-portrayed relationship with Nevaeh. 

The climax of the story, espeically the part with Mr. Johnson's outburst, seemed a little outlandish to me - though I understand that people do actually talk like that sometimes. Maybe. But the climax was satisfying, the ending was satisfying - actually, all of the plot was tied together well at the end.

I really liked Color Me In. It makes me want to read more books about race and social issues such as racism.
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Navaeh Levitz is part white Jewish and part black and has never felt like a whole person. As a white-passing biracial child, she has just always accepted that she doesn't fit in anywhere. When her parents' marriage unravels, Navaeh is forced into the depths of both sides of her identity and can either choose to continue battling to be accepted or all embrace all the magic in her heritage.

If you like books by Angie Thomas or Elizabeth Acevedo, then you should read this book. I know the readalikes are usually put at the end of a review but I thought I'd get them out of the way here.

Color Me In is a character-focused novel truly written for a Young Adult demographic. The conflicting inner-dialogue, the friendships, the high-school drama and the unrelenting need to fit in left me cringing and wanting to shake some sense in Navaeh. This book touches on identity, racial tension, religion, friendship, love and family and a part of me stopped and wondered if there was too much being included but actually no, I don't think there is. All these themes and ideas are interwoven with one another to create the whole. If you think about it, all the other things are interwoven to create our identities and often times it's not a conclusion we reach but a lesson we are constantly learning. I think Diaz has illustrated that well. 

I'm a hopeless optimistic so I always want even the worst characters to have a redemptive arc and that doesn't always happen in this book but then it doesn't always happen in real life. However, many of the 'bad' characters, like Samuel and Abby, lacked the multidimensions woven into the 'good' characters such as Stevie and Jordan.

But the MVP and the character that makes this book an ultimate winner for me is Navaeh. Which is only right as she is the protagonist. Navaeh is loosely based on Diaz and this is clear in her character development. I both want to shake her and hug her. She is selfish and careless and self-involved but which teenager isn't? (How many adults aren't like that either?) But she grows, she changes, she finds her magic.

I hope this is a book that many teenagers out there read and are inspired to find their magic.
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“People are always going to want to split you into pieces so they can feel more comfortable with who you are, and I’m sorry no one ever sat you down to prepare you for that.”

Oh my sweet baby Nevaeh. How much do I want to pull you from these pages and just give you a hug??? Gah! I love love loved this story so much!!!

This is so much more than a coming of age story. This is the kind of book where Big Things are discussed. The kind with capital letters. Nevaeh is biracial, half black, half Jewish. Even though she’s never felt like she’s fully belonged anywhere, she had her parents. And that was enough. Until she came home from school with her belongings in boxes and finds herself living with her estranged mother’s side of the family. With little explanation.

What follows is the story of Nevaeh picking up the pieces, trying to find a story that makes sense in the jumbled world she finds herself in. It’s about finding herself, but this is also about finding her place in the world.

I love that her parents are very real people too. While Nevaeh is trying to find who she is, she also discovers that her parents aren’t exactly what she thought either. I feel like this is such an important aspect of growing up that doesn’t always get looked at. Or brought up. Our parents are people, and people generally have complex, complicated lives with secrets and past choices and mistakes they regret. It doesn’t make them bad, it makes them human. And I loved how this was woven into Nevaeh’s story.

“It’s odd how sometimes these comments bother me, and how at other times I can’t help but chuckle at the absurdity. I guess I’m just used to never being enough of anything.”

The writing is poetic and since Nevaeh is an actual writer, her own poetry is woven in, making this novel sing with lyrical prose. It’s gorgeous! Nevaeh’s mother also gets a voice, as her journal entries are included, and I adore how this not only gives an added dimension to her character, but also makes the reader feel like we truly are on this journey of discovery with Nevaeh. It’s beautifully done and these intricate layers are what makes this book stand out.

Rich with meaning, delicious writing, and characters that simply burst off the pages, Color Me In is a spectacular debut that leaves me wanting more. This is definitely a book contemporary YA fans will not want to miss!

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours and Delacourte Press for including me on this tour and sending me a copy to review.
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This is Natasha Diaz debut YA book and I loved it! We meet Nevaeh, we learn that her parents are split up and this leads to Nevaeh getting reconnect with her mothers' side of the family. I enjoyed the two different worlds, her mother's side, who is African American and her father who is Jewish. I enjoy the mashup of both of these cultures. This book covers topics of racism, poverty, assault and mental health. This book is very character-driven. There are also family secrets, drama, and choices that have to be made. Diaz's writing is very pretty, there is also poetry from Nevaeh's points of view. I like how she uses it to express herself and grows as a character. My favorite part of this book is how she learns to speak up for herself. Not only is Diaz's writing pretty but she has this skill of covering so many sensitive topics without going over or too pushy. It's remarkable! These pages are powerful, a young girl of color who becomes bold in her biracial heritage roots!

(This review ran in Double the Books Magazine issue Aug)
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I've added this book to the list of books for my biracial nieces and nephews and my future children. 

The perspective of growing up in America as a biracial person is so needed and I'm glad this book exists. It's crucial that we continue to write, read, and share stories from different perspectives to create a more inclusive and inviting society.
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This debut was a marvel, and I've already placed it in the hands of some of my teens at the library. I couldn't put it down, and I'm excited to see what's next from Natasha Diaz.
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Some books just surprise you in the best of ways. When I added this book to my TBR, I only expected to read a nice YA coming of age contemporary, but wow did I get so much more. I’m emotional and delighted and thoroughly impressed, so let me share my thoughts.

Nevaeh’s life is completely turned upside down due to her parent’s separation and she is struggling to find her place in this new reality. She wants to fit in with her mother’s very religious Baptist family living in Harlem, but she has never the chance or maybe even desire to explore her Black identity before, so she doesn’t know how to do it. She tries to channel her confusion, her rage and her feelings into her writing but she is still afraid to show it to anyone. But slowly with the help of her extended family, the friends she makes in the vibrant community and getting to know her mother better through her old journal, she starts expressing herself through spoken word poetry. She is also initially hesitant to understand her Jewish identity but that slowly changes because of the influence of the very interesting Rabbi Sarah. I liked how the author shows us all facets of Nevaeh - she isn’t perfect, just a realistic teenager with faults, who doesn’t know everything, makes mistakes and can’t even understand why she is wrong - but ultimately she owns up her mistakes and tries to correct them, strives to be better.

Every other character in the book also has their own arc. They all influence Nevaeh in her growth, but they have lives and their own issues independent of her. That’s why this book is more reading about the daily lives of a family and their friends, rather than just about the main character. Her mother’s despair because of the divorce and her deep rooted anxieties are cleverly integrated into the story through the journal, which was also probably one of the hardest parts of the book to read. Jordan is her vivacious cousin who has dreams and ideas for her future, but has to constantly fight for her opportunities because the world doesn’t think a young Black woman deserves them. Stevie is Nevaeh’s best friend and I just adored his wit and his confidence to go for what he wants. Her aunt Anita comes across as abrasive but they are so many layers to her character and it was beautiful to get to know her. And Rabbi Sarah is one of my favorites - faithful but also open minded, she is charming and delightful but there’s also a deep sadness in her. She plays such an important part in the book and I would have loved to get to know her better, but the way her arc is written is kinda perfect for this story. I wasn’t sure what to think of Jesus initially but I liked the developing romance. He is also probably one of the most sorted characters in that he knows what he wants from his future and has worked hard for it, despite the world trying to snatch it away from him. Abby is the typical mean girl classmate and Ashleigh is the usual evil stepmother - while I understood the parts they played in Nevaeh’s character growth, they both didn’t feel as real as all the other characters in the book and that’s probably my only issue with this book.

There are so many themes explored in this book, I’m just in awe of the author for being able to talk about all of them in a sensitive manner. The main theme is obviously the issues faced by biracial people, their confusion with finding their place and trying to fit in with both sides of their identity. Both Nevaeh and Stevie have similar kind of issues personally, but they also affect them differently in the outside world because Nevaeh is white passing and he is not. She makes mistakes and is forced to check her privilege many times, sometimes brutally - until she realizes that her privilege allows her to voice her thoughts in a safer manner and sometimes, she has to use this privilege to just listen and give the opportunity to other marginalized voices to speak. There are just so many instances of racism in the book, both micro aggressions and some outright ones - we see how it chips away at the soul of the person who has to encounter them everyday but still wake up and go through it all over again, knowing that their life maybe cut short with even a little misstep. This harsh reality is depicted with raw honesty in the book and it just pained me so much. On another note, the despair of having to go through a divorce after having depended on a person for years is also depicted in a very real manner. The one part which I felt really hard though was, how deep it cuts to lose a childhood best friend and having to go through life without being able to share everything with them. As a single child like Nevaeh, I understood her pain all too well even though my circumstances were different, but I think more books should highlight the deep impact that friendships have on us and how losing them affect us even profoundly than a romantic breakup.

Finally, I just want to say that pick up this book and I promise, you will be affected. It is brilliant, insightful and heartfelt and you just can’t help but feel the raw emotions that the characters are feeling. It clearly shows that this is the author’s lived experience, a fictionalized version of her own life which makes every word feel very honest. The author’s note at the end is even more moving. However, this is a very character driven, slice of life kinda story and there is not much of a plot, but it didn't impact my reading experience at all. It's an amazing debut and I can’t wait to see what more the author has for us in the future
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Thank you so much to random house kids publishing for giving me a chance to review a copy of this early!

Wow. This is such a powerful novel. I don’t know if this review will do ‘Color Me In’ justice. I didn’t know what to think about this book when I first read the blurb – I was of two minds, either it could tackle the story really well and be a masterpiece of a book I won’t stop shouting about. Or, it could end up butchering the story it was trying to tell and i’d still be left yearning for a story like this. To cut a long review short, this book was EVERYTHING

In Short

In Short: A Story That Needed To Be Told + Hilarious & Grounded Characters + The Bi-Racial Story We Needed

In Detail

This is a story about being that I wasn’t sure I wanted, but I certainly needed. It focuses on Nevaeh, a biracial teenager growing up in New York. Her mum is African American and her Dad is Jewish and also white, for the majority of her life so far she’s been raised in an affluent suburb of New York however that’s all about to change. Her Mum & Dad split up, then Nevaeh and her mum move in with her family. Suddenly she’s faced with getting to know this other-side of her and a different of her family who she barely knew, due to being cut off by her father. Whilst at the same time dealing with:

Mum whose having a breakdown
Dad who doesn’t understand her and doesn’t even try too.
Dad’s new girlfriend who is so up her own arse it hurts
Figuring out who she is and where she fits in between these two totally different worlds
Planning for a batmizvah that she doesn’t really want
Her cousins looking down on her for not understanding their culture & going to a private school.
As she tries to navigate this brand new situation, she finds out a deep dark secret about her mum which changes her perspective about the world we live in. My favourite part about this whole story is how it’s so character driven and it makes the book much more powerful and special. Natasha really nails the whole aspect and feeling of Nevaeh being torn in two – a bit like a game of tug of war where she’s being pulled apart by the two different cultures her parents are trying to get her to be.

This book is split into three main parts in my view:

The Story (What’s Happening)
Nevaeh’s Poems (Her writing down how she feels)
Neveah’s mum’s Journal (Flashbacks to her mum’s past)
All of this really helps to bring this book to life. I loved the little flashbacks you saw of her mum’s past, it really helps you build this sense of connection to the characters and understand their backstory. Towards the end of the book I ended up getting so angry with the injustices in the book and this is truly a testament to how incredible this writer is. Nevaeh’s poems are also such a treat to read – I found myself rereading them and speaking them out loud just to get a feel for how Neveah would say them.

One of the main strands of this story is Nevaeh planning her batmizvah which her dad is forcing her to do, to connect with her jewish heritage since he despises the fact she’s becoming more and more connected to her mum’s side. A part of this includes getting Nevaeh tutoring so she can learn more about her jewish side in preparation for her batmizvah. This is where one of my favourite characters come in – Rabbi Sarah. I loved her so much, mainly due to how at first Nevaeh is at odds with the whole idea of being forced to have a batmizvah and tries to avoid Rabbi Sarah as much as she can. But over time they slowly get closer and she ends up being her rock to navigate Nevaeh through all of this. Plus there relationship is EVERYTHING.

Another big strand of ‘Color Me In’, is the fact that Nevaeh is mixed race and comes from privileged background and has light skin. This leads to her cousins feeling that she doesn’t fit in with their family and it leads to Nevaeh questioning ‘if she isn’t jewish, but can’t be African American because she’s not black then where does she belong? Who exactly is Nevaeh?’. This book tackles everyday racism and white privilege in such a privilege until she starts trying to connect with her mum’s side of the family.

In Conclusion

This book does something special. Like really special, it helped open my eyes. It showed me that it’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to be a part of two totally different conflicting cultures. In fact, the world is so much better off with you embracing who you are and attempting to mesh those two cultures into who you are. You can be who you are even if you feel like you’re so lost in the middle because you don’t exactly belong to either side. You can find your middle ground to be part of both sides.

Also, on another note. I didn’t figure this out until i’d read the book, but the title is SO clever. It sums up the book and the story perfectly and I loved the book even more for this once it’d clicked. How Nevaeh wishes she could fit in by being coloured in and fitting in with the rest of her family.

As you can tell, I ADORED this book, like SO much. I’m going to upload a separate post detailing my thoughts on this book in-detail because I didn’t have enough space to talk about it entirely in this review! I hope you enjoyed this! Are you going to add this to your TBR? Let me know below!
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Color Me In made a likely fan of me as soon as I read the description, several months before I even got my eyes on an ARC. I'm often drawn to books that grapple with the complexities of identity, especially when the ideas of home and faith are part of that equation. Natasha Diaz has crafted a standout YA debut, tactfully exploring 16-year-old Nevaeh Levitz's burgeoning crisis in the wake of her parents' separation. Nevaeh has left the home she knew in the affluent suburbs and moved in to her mother's family home in Harlem, where she struggles to fit in with her Baptist relatives. While she's trying to find her footing in Harlem, her previously secular father has decided that he and Nevaeh need to connect with their Jewish heritage—in a public way, by throwing her a bat mitzvah several years late. I particularly appreciated the journal Nevaeh finds and reads to learn more about her mother's past, and the poetry Nevaeh writes as a way of finding and hearing her own voice. At times, I did wish the plot had slowed down just a touch so that the story may have had more time to play out on the page—there seemed to be a few unexplained, sudden leaps in time, eliding details and reflection, and the romance sped forward within only a few scenes. Overall, though, this is beautifully written, featuring great character development and thoughtful exploration of a host of relevant social and political issues.

A good comp for readers of Misa Sugiura, Brandy Colbert, Susan Kaplan Carlton, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte/Random House for providing me with a digital review copy.
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