BookBrowse Reviews Like Home by Louisa Onome

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Like Home

by Louisa Onome

Like Home by Louisa Onome X
Like Home by Louisa Onome
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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Althea Draper
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A teenage girl finds her hometown changing, and her whole life turned upside down, in the face of a targeted act of vandalism.

Like Home is the powerful debut novel from Louisa Onomé that follows Chinelo, or Nelo as her friends call her, who is deeply passionate about the community spirit of her neighborhood. When a well-loved, family-owned business that is close to her heart is the scene of a crime, the rest of the world begins to focus in on the area, and things start to change in the place she calls home.

Like Home will resonate with many young people today thanks to its strong message on gentrification, and Onomé has struck gold with a compelling main character to boot. Nelo is a Black teenage girl living with her mother — while her father is away for work — in the neighborhood of Ginger East, where rent keeps rising and residents are struggling to make ends meet. Despite the local circumstances, she is devoted to her home and the people who make up the community, including her best friend, Kate, whose parents own a spice shop that is targeted by vandalism.

Nelo is an extremely strong-willed individual who, determined to get to the bottom of the attack and to get some form of justice for her friend's family, joins a local group that is organizing a peaceful protest on the matter. After an internet video in which she expresses her thoughts on the situation goes viral, she becomes even more intent on preserving the Ginger East that she loves so much and stopping the roots of gentrification, which are already apparent in the brand-new franchise spice shop in place of an old neighbor's home and the fancy coffee shop at the end of the road, from creeping any further in.

Alongside Nelo and Kate, we are introduced to three other teens who once lived in the neighborhood but have since moved to what are seen as "safer" areas. Their perspectives offer us a chance to view the whole picture of what is occurring in Ginger East, despite seeing the story directly only through Nelo's eyes.

Onomé's engaging first-person prose allows us inside the protagonist's head, and allows her character as well as the situation in the community to really resonate. Several times I found myself getting angry at the injustice happening in the neighborhood. I also felt fit to burst at the romantic tension laced so seamlessly throughout the book that accompanies Nelo falling for a childhood friend. Despite the novel being relatively lengthy for a young adult contemporary, Onomé's magnetic style made me eager to find out what was going to happen next. Her writing is fresh and authentic, enabling even adult readers to feel like they are seeing the world from a teen's perspective, text-message typos and all.

Despite her fun and at times comedic approach, the author does not shy away from hard-hitting topics. At the forefront of the story is the focus on gentrification, population displacement and the economy, alongside racism and policing in North America. In the current political climate that we find ourselves in, books like these are more vital than ever for engaging young people in subjects that matter. However, at its heart, Onomé's novel is about change – not just the change in Nelo's neighborhood, but the change in her friendships, in her body, in her private life and, perhaps most importantly, in how she connects with her community.

Like Home is truly the perfect read for those who love the powerful narratives of Angie Thomas and Ibi Zoboi's passionate writing style — it is a dynamic novel, tinged with childhood nostalgia, that will play on in your mind long after the final page and leave you aching for more from Louisa Onomé's skillful pen.

Reviewed by Althea Draper

This review first ran in the March 3, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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