A review by leahsbooks
Color Me In, by Natasha Diaz
emotional sad medium-paced
- Plot- or character-driven? Character
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? It's complicated
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
This is a tough book for me to review, partly because according to the author’s note, it draws heavily on her own life experience. And as much as I respect her own lived experiences, there were a few aspects of the book that I really had a hard time with.
I listened to the audiobook. While Bahni Turpin was an enjoyable narrator as the voice of Nevaeh, she clearly struggled with the pronunciation of quite a few of the Hebrew words. There were a lot of words that were pronounced wrong, and I wish this had been addressed. It took me out of the story each time it happened, and was incredibly frustrated.
The characters commonly felt so one-dimensional. Every single time that Nevaeh’s cousin Jerry appears, he is referred to as chubby or eating. Miss Clarisse is constantly portrayed as slutty and focused on pushing her form-fitting clothing. Abby’s father is described in a way that made him seem like an overdone Southern villain. And the Levitz side of the family is problematic in a whole different way — the grandmother is overbearing and kind of controlling (a stereotype), and while the family seems to have no connection to their Jewish roots, they become fixated on the idea of having a Bat Mitzvah for Nevaeh only when they discover that she’s been attending church with her mother. The mother’s behavior is bizarre to me as well — for someone who is so incredibly depressed for much of the book, it didn’t feel realistic to me that she attended a couple of therapy sessions and magically became supermom. There could have been so much nuance to all of the characters. I’m sure there’s more to Jerry than his weight and eating habits and Miss Clarisse is a successful Black business owner that hopefully has a genuine relationship with the grandfather, but those roles aren’t explored at all.
Nevaeh herself seems to have no desire to explore either side of her heritage. She’s kind of forced to explore her Jewish side, which I understand not wanting to, since she wasn’t raised with any connection to it. However, I didn’t think that the representation was done very well there. Judaism is so much more than simply prayers — there’s a rich culture and heritage, with thousands of years of history, customs, rituals, foods, holidays, stories, and a system of beliefs. However, all Nevaeh seems to learn is a few prayers. I did like how she was able to incorporate what she learned into her life, and that her Bat Mitzvah mixed both sides of her background into the celebration.
I liked the message that Nevaeh learned, but I guess I was hoping for more from the story. The relationships just kind of seemed to happen, rather than build up over time. Nevaeh went from disliking Rabbi Sarah to relying on her and considering her as a support, and went from being unsure of Jesus to dating him. I just didn’t really understand how things happened so quickly. Even the relationship with Jordan — it went from antagonistic to friends very quickly. I had some high expectations for this book, but it just didn’t really hit the bar for me.
Graphic: Antisemitism, Mental illness, Sexual assault, and Racism