Watch Us Rise by Rene Watson & Ellen Hagan [ARC REVIEW]
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Publication Date: February 12th 2019
Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.
I finished this book yesterday and I still don’t really know how to put into words how much this book affected me. Told mostly through poems, playlists and blog posts, Watch Us Rise is a story about feminism and women’s rights and how women’s voices are silenced in today’s so-called progressive society.
“We should be using our art to say something, do something.”
Jasmine and Chelsea have been best friends since middle school and have been taught throughout their lives to use their talents to change the world. Both–along with their two other best friends, Nadine and Isaac; have been dubbed art-ivists, artists who use their talents to speak out against the wrongs of society and make their community in New York a better place. Jasmine an actor, Chelsea a poet, Nadine a designer, and Isaac an artist.
The characters within this story were rich and so raw and real that they honestly kept the story alive for me as we saw the struggles they face within their school. Each character showed a side of the issues female’s face on a daily basis, Jasmine with microaggression and being forced to conform to the stereotypes of being a plus size African-American and Chelsea with sexual harassment and being seeing but never heard. Sick of speaking into the void, the girls form their own after school club “Write like a Girl” where they post about woman’s issues–needless to say their blog becomes an overnight success and they are soon sent on a whirlwind journey of learning: what do you want the world to hear when the whole world is listening?
Throughout my time reading I think I connected with Jasmine the most as we faced the same struggles in life–being plus sized in a world that demands thin, especially within our field of study (theatre/acting), and walking through the hardship of a parent dying of cancer. I cried and cheered for this character throughout as I watched her become more bold and confident with who she was and the voice she was creating.
“She took me for a hot fudge sundae and told me that women have to learn how to stand out with their words, with their fierce minds, and that courage lived in the actions we made, and not in our bra size or the texture of our hair.”
The sole focus of this novel is using your voice–that it doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, your voice still matters–and that the little sparks and actions can set off a fire that cannot be contained or controlled. This is what this book is–a spark to that flame that opens the discussion and dialogue of treatment of women and their rights around the world. With a diverse cast and a timely plot, Watch Us Rise highlights and references great female women who have empowered and made changes to society throughout time; giving these women’s voices another platform to reach the generation of today. I honestly, learned so much from this novel, and it made me think about my own actions and if they were problematic or not. This book gives its readers a chance to reflect and take stock of their own lives so that they can be a better human tomorrow–something to which I tip my hat off too.
Overall, this young adult take on modern intersectional feminism was gripping and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this everyone around me–young or old–there is something everyone can learn and take from with Watch Us Rise.
Representation: Diverse Cast, Plus Size MC, Cancer
Content Warning: Death of a Parent, Cancer, Sexual Harassment
ARC provided by Netgalley and Bloomsbury YA in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication.