I read a lot of YA (young adult) novels. Mostly because I enjoy hearing stories about young adults figuring out their place in the world, falling in love for the first time, or figuring out who they are. That’s a big part of why I read a lot of queer young adult novels. It’s not because I’m a queer teen looking for representation, it’s because I’m a queer adult who never got represented in the media, or if I was, the character was often a caricature or killed off.
When I look at novels like Watch Us Rise, I’m especially grateful that it is targeted for younger audiences because it is focusing on issues that are relevant and prevalent in the lives of teenagers and it talks about it with them in a way that they can understand and move forward with. The most successful part of this book, is how it portrays many different layers and levels to the world of feminism and shows the reader the possible ways to handle those situations (and in some cases, the best way to handle them).
Jasmine and Chelsea attend their prestigious liberal school that boasts about inclusivity, equity, and fairness. But in their junior year, Jasmine and Chelsea can’t help but see all of the micro-aggressions and blatant racism and sexism that exists in their school. So they start a club to fight it. And from that club, they create a blog and soon that blog starts getting a lot of attention and not just from their classmates.
As I said, this story tackles many different issues that are interwoven with feminism. Jasmine is plus sized, something she thinks about on a regular basis and addresses the limiting and isolating reality of being plus sized in a world that hates overweight people. At the same time, Chelsea and Jasmine need to remember that queer women also exists and that they cannot be excluded from feminist conversations. In fact, there are many positive female role models of varying backgrounds that show the girls how much more there is to understand without belittling what they’re doing.
I found this book to be powerful and empowering and it is exactly the kind of thing I want young kids to be reading. There’s a chance that there will be a perspective that they can either relate to or learn from, both of which are important. Chelsea is a feminist and struggles with her body image and how she looks. Her relationship with this is one that I feel many people, but especially women, can relate to. I feel more confident/pretty when I wear mascara, does that make me a bad feminist? Does that make me weak to the patriarchy? Am I hurting my cause? These are all really hard, important questions that many of us will ask ourselves so it’s wonderful to see that covered in this book.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you are either new to feminism, or a younger reader who just wants to read more feminist literature. If you’re older, I still think this book could offer some good, modern insight to a movement that has existed for what feels like forever.