Skip to main content

Watch Us Rise

Review

Watch Us Rise

WATCH US RISE co-written by New York Times bestselling author Renée Watson and the debut novel from seasoned poet Ellen Hagan, is a unique piece of YA fiction. The book follows the lives of best friends Jasmine and Chelsea throughout their junior year at a progressive high school in New York City. Amsterdam Heights High School is committed to activism, and it is mandatory for all students to join a social justice club, whether it be the LGBTQIA+ Club, the Animal Rights Club, the August Wilson Acting Ensemble, etc. Early in the year, Jasmine and Chelsea quit their respective clubs because they do not feel like their voices are being heard. They decide to start their own women’s rights club, which they name “Write Like A Girl.”

"Everything about WATCH US RISE is pertinent and contemporary, from the title to the poems and writings within it. The book itself is an encouraging call to action."

The club and its blog quickly garner attention (though oddly, for the majority of the book, Jasmine and Chelsea don’t invite anyone else to join their club). Chelsea, a poet, posts some of her verses, while Jasmine posts essays and other writings about culture, female artists, and feminists. While their blog posts are read by many and the girls get numerous likes and encouraging comments, they also receive negative feedback from people who disagree with the club’s feminist agenda. Along with their friends Isaac and Nadine, Jasmine and Chelsea then embark on a series of increasingly bold actions, which eventually lead to warnings from the school administration. The girls discover that just because they go to a forward-thinking high school doesn’t mean their opinions will always be welcome. Over the course of the book, Jasmine and Chelsea learn how to be persistent and effective activists --- or “art-ivists” --- in the real world, and work to find a space where they can express their thoughts.

WATCH US RISE is told from Jasmine and Chelsea’s alternating perspectives, with some of their blog content --- including poems, essays, and playlists --- interspersed throughout. The story also incorporates relevant topics like body positivity, intersectional feminism and the history of minority groups in NYC. While Jasmine and Chelsea are united in the struggle to keep their club running, they each face different challenges romantically and at home. Ultimately their fiery passion for women’s rights is a key character trait that both girls possess, and this makes their friendship that much stronger.

The book discusses stereotypes at length, starting with the most common ones to illustrate the negative impact they can have on people and society. There’s also a historical component...famous feminists, their work and their quotes are all part of the “Write Like A Girl” club and blog.

Written by two New York City inhabitants, there is no doubt that this is a story of powerful, intersectional feminists. Everything about WATCH US RISE is pertinent and contemporary, from the title to the poems and writings within it. The book itself is an encouraging call to action. At the very end, there is a “Resources For Young Activists” section, which includes various organizations, writers, books, websites, blogs and ways to get involved in social activism.

WATCH US RISE is an empowering read for readers of modern poetry, aspiring activists and feminists of all genders and backgrounds. Upon reading it, you will understand how important it is to act for what you believe in. To quote Jasmine’s Op-Ed, When Silence Speaks:

“Your silence is saying something. Loud and clear.

We hear you.

Now hear us.”

Reviewed by Madeline G., Teen Board Member on February 26, 2019

Watch Us Rise
by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan