Like Home – by Louisa Onomé

Like Home – by Louisa Onomé, Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House), 9780593172599, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  Nelo loves her neighborhood Ginger East, anchored by the local market, Ginger Store. In fact, it’s her second home, owned and operated by her best friend Kate’s Vietnamese immigrant parents. Ginger East is a vibrant, multicultural enclave, although Nelo (whose Dad immigrated from Nigeria) worries that to outsiders, it looks rough, especially after someone heaves a brick through the front window of the Ginger Store, setting off a chain of events that may end with the store closing for good and Kate’s family moving away. Onomé draws an ambitious parallel between encroaching gentrification and teenagers’ growing away from old routines and into new roles. I liked that the book seemed to be set in Toronto, although I did wonder why that wasn’t made more explicit (I think many teen readers would be interested to see gentrification and immigration through a Canadian lens).  Twin romances for Kate and Nelo (both with male childhood friends) add drama to the story. Nelo’s growing pains (her discomfort with her new body, her confusion over the incipient crushes) also track with residents’ discomfort as Ginger East begins to evolve into something different. Almost all the characters in the book are BIPOC.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The book felt overstuffed and had a frantic pace that I found somewhat exhausting. I could have done without the mystery over who threw the brick, which turned out to be a red herring anyway. I did like the idea of exploring gentrification, a phenomenon that my students have a lot of experience with and would certainly find relevant, but I was confused by Onomé’s lack of conclusiveness. Is it bad? Good? Inevitable?

To whom would you recommend this book?  Several reviews I read compared it to The Hate You Give. Nelo, much like Starr Carter, does become politically active over the course of the novel. I would say grades 8 and up (some strong language).

Who should buy this book? High schools, public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 5, 2021

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