Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon
When 17-year-old Hazel Newlevant takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forest in her home town of Portland, Oregon, her only expectation is to earn a little money. Homeschooled, affluent, and sheltered, Hazel soon finds her job working side by side with at-risk teens to be an initiation into a new world that she has no skill in navigating. This uncomfortable and compelling memoir is an important story of a girl’s awakening to the racial insularity of her life, the power of white privilege, and the hidden story of segregation in Portland.
If you’d pitched this book to me anywhere other than BookCon, I probably would have passed. But the Lion Forge booth was doing an ARC signing and I got a ticket and this book sounded interesting, so I decided to go for it. All things considered, I think it was a good decision.
I think the first thing I want to say is that I loved the art style. The majority of the ARC is in black and white and I can easily imagine the pages being stunning in full color. I think that the graphic novel format helped this book a lot. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much as a standard memoir.
The next thing I want to say is that there’s a lot going on in this book. Hazel is homeschooled, sheltered, and privileged. When they take a summer job pulling ivy, they encounter the first real diversity of their life and have to come to terms with their parents’ prejudice and the realization that racism still exists in our daily lives. Hazel also in a relationship with a younger guy, which causes some conflict with their new coworkers, and flirts with a guy who’s fifteen years older, which makes for some really uncomfortable scenes.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I think I would have liked it more if it had taken a deeper look at the themes of white privilege and the inherent racism in homeschooling that’s just briefly addressed. I understand that this is a graphic memoir and what happens is what happened, but I felt like something was missing to make this a complete story. Still, I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a good starting point when it comes to white privilege.
Have you read No Ivy League? Do you like to read graphic memoirs?
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