LIKE HOME Book Review by Joan F. Smith

Like Home

by Louisa Onomé

Fans of Netflix's On My Block, In the Heights, and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Ibi Zoboi will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws her relationships and even her 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 her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn't what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo's good.

Only, Kate's parents' corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to "fix" it. 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. 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.

About the Author

Louisa Onomé is a Nigerian-Canadian writer of books for teens. She holds a BA in professional writing and is an all-around cheerleader for diverse works and writers. When not writing, her hobbies include picking up languages she may never use, crying over her favourite video games, and perfecting her skincare routine. She resides in the Toronto area.

Twitter: @louisaonome_

Joan's Review

Change can be hard for most people, and one of those people is sixteen-year-old Chinelo (“Nelo” to her friends), the smart, fierce, and loyal Nigerian-Canadian protagonist in Louisa Onomé’s stunning YA debut Like Home. Nelo loves her home—it is a community that raised her on love, neighborhood care, and Vita ice cream bars—but now Ginger East is gentrifying, bringing in upscale stores, kale sandwiches, higher rents, and a big-box spice store. A tragedy at a local arcade had already driven most of Nelo’s childhood group of friends from Ginger East to “nicer” neighborhoods; now, she is at risk of losing her best friend, Kate Tran, after the Trans’ family shop is vandalized.

When Nelo vows to learn the identity of the person who bricked the Trans’ spice shop, she accidentally ends up as a viral video clip, and suddenly, Ginger East has garnered national attention and a rally to “fix” the neighborhood—something Nelo has no interest in. To make matters worse, Nelo could use her best friend now, more than ever—but Kate has inexplicably distanced herself from Nelo. Between threats to her home neighborhood, national media attention, and rockiness in all the relationships in her life, Nelo is at serious risk of losing everything she loves the most—unless she can determine a way to fix things for herself.

Teens will recognize relevant topics such as gentrification, protests, video influencers, the changes of childhood friendships, and social media; Onomé also has presented a naturally diverse cast, which helps portray inequities, racial injustices, capitalism, and class differences. Nelo’s voice is memorable—she navigates her loves and losses with a voice sharp with humor and emotion. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas and Elizabeth Acevedo, and accessible for both the crossover readers from middle grade to YA and readers of YA everywhere.

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Joan F. Smith lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she works as an associate dean, a creative writing professor, and a dance instructor. She received her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College, and has written articles for The Washington Post and Thought Catalog on destigmatizing discussions around mental health and suicide prevention. The Half-Orphan's Handbook is her first novel.

Twitter: @jf_smit