Review: Color Me In by Natasha Diaz

Title: Color Me In
Author: Natasha Diaz
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 384

Content Warnings: underage drinking, racism, sexual assault, police brutality

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Debut YA author Natasha Diaz 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?

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I was not expecting so much emotion from Color Me In, but debut author Natasha Diaz certainly delivered. Inspired by her own experiences, Diaz has given readers a truly authentic story that will stick with them long after they finish reading the last page.

Nevaeh has so many layers to her. We see a great deal of personal growth and development, but not once does she lose the core of who she is. I’ve never read about a biracial teen before and Nevaeh opened my eyes. Growing up, it’s already hard to understand who you are in the moment and who you want to be in the future. Nevaeh had so much added stress by being pulled in so many conflicting directions regarding race, religion, and people’s expectations. She didn’t always make the best decisions, but in the end, she accepted when she was in the wrong and worked hard to fix things.

…you have to learn to be wrong.

color me in by natasha diaz

The poetry mixed into the story was beautiful. It was at times a little jarring because the placement of the poems didn’t always seem to fit, but their inclusion added an extra punch to the emotion already contained within these pages. I’m hoping Diaz will attempt to write a novel completely in verse one day.

While there isn’t a straightforward plot, as in the story is being told because a certain thing needs to be accomplished, there is such a purpose to everything. Nevaeh’s story demands to be told. So many readers will be able to see themselves in these words and characters.

My only complaint is that while I enjoyed Diaz’s lyrical writing style, at times I found myself confused as to how things went from point A to B. There were several instances where Nevaeh said she arrived home after school and then suddenly the family was sitting down to dinner. I don’t know if I maybe somehow missed a couple of key details, but I had to go back and reread a few passages to try and understand things.

I don’t know how to be me.

color me in by natasha diaz

Overall, this is an incredibly strong debut. Natasha Diaz tackles important issues in a no-holding-back way. Color Me In will open the eyes of countless readers, such as me, and allow so many the representation that has been lacking.

A digital ARC was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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