Today I’m reviewing one of my newest favorite YA books that I hope gets all the hype it deserves!
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Title: Like Home
Author: Louisa Onomé
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: February 23, 2021
Synopsis: “Fans of Netflix’s On My Block and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Angie Thomas will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws both her relationships and neighborhood into turmoil.
Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and the memories she has growing up there with her friends. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, most of her friends’ families moved away. Kate, whose family owns the local corner store, is still there and as long as that stays constant, Nelo’s good.
When Kate’s parent’s store is vandalized and the vandal still at large, Nelo is shaken to her core. And then the police and the media get involved and more of the outside world descends upon Ginger East with promises to fix the neighborhood. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.
Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Now Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything–and everyone–she loves.”
Chinelo, or Nelo for short, loves her neighborhood Ginger East—it’s full of memories of going to the arcade with her friends or hanging out at Ginger Store, the corner store owned by her best friend Kate’s family. The neighborhood has changed, and most of Nelo and Kate’s friends have moved away, but Nelo still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But her world is shaken when someone throws a brick through the window of Ginger Store. As the community responds, attention from the police and the media puts Ginger East, and Nelo, in the spotlight. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself forced to confront questions of community, changing friendships, and the world around her.
Like Home addresses themes of change, gentrification, community, and activism in a thoughtful and compelling way. The vandalism at Ginger Store brings the community together and pushes them to start addressing other issues impacting the neighborhood, like new fancy shops moving in and rent hikes that are pushing families out. Nelo has a strong voice, and through the support of her community, she learns how she can actually use that voice. Louise Onomé creates such a realistic and palpable sense of community—Ginger East absolutely felt like a real neighborhood, and I loved reading about the way the community comes together.
In addition to dealing with big subjects like community, change, and activism, Like Home is also very much a story of friendship. Each character in Like Home truly felt so real and compelling. I loved that this novel also had a diverse cast of characters: Nelo and her family are Nigerian, and her best friend Kate is Vietnamese. There were a number of other supporting and background characters who were Black, Latinx, and Asian.
The characters and their relationships are undoubtably my favorite thing about this YA contemporary. Nelo and her best friend Kate have an incredible sense of sisterhood, and Nelo desperately wants to be there for Kate’s family in the aftermath of the brick incident. As a distance forms between them, Nelo becomes more and more determined to find out who really threw the brick. The bond between Kate and Nelo felt so real, complex, and tender.
I loved that Like Home is also about old friends finding their way back to each other. Throughout the years, many of Nelo and Kate’s other friends have moved out of Ginger East. When the vandalism of Ginger Store puts their neighborhood in the spotlight, Nelo and Kate find themselves reconnecting with two of their former friends, Rafa and Bo. Nelo has to process her feelings of hurt and betrayal about them leaving Ginger East, while also questioning whether she’s ready to make space for these friendships again. But while Rafa and Bo want to help, another former friend, Maree, is looking to gain fame off of the community; together, Nelo and Kate will have to push back against exploitation and the appropriation of their community’s narrative.
Louisa Onomé’s writing is impactful, and a perfect blend of wit, humor, and honesty. I loved that Like Home tackles very serious subjects like gentrification and activism while balancing them with moments of joy and resiliency. The voice and characters in this story feel so real, and the community of Ginger East jumped right off the page. I found the pacing of this book absolutely perfect, and I never wanted to say goodbye to Nelo and her friends. This novel has already become one of my favorite YA books of 2021, and Louisa Onomé is definitely an author I’ll be watching.
This was truly a wonderfully character-driven story that also presents difficult and necessary conversations around change, activism, self, and community. You can bet I’m adding this book to my library’s collection, and will be recommending it to fans of Ibi Zoboi, Brandy Colbert, Renée Watson, and Angie Thomas. Ultimately, Like Home is a beautiful YA contemporary that explores change—in the world, in our communities, in our relationships, and in ourselves.
Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital review copy!