The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson, published by Flux, Northstar Editions, 2011, ebook USD 2.99 paperback USD 9.95, ISBN 0738722782, 336 pages, Winner of A 2011 Bronze Medal IPPY Winner in YA/Multicultural (Independent Publishers Book Awards). Florida Teens Read List 2013 – 2014, Scholastic Book Club Selection.
The Latte Rebellion is a coming of age story, tackling: social justice, friendship, prejudice, social movements, and identity diaspora packaged in a highly accessible and tightly written novel for teens. Asha’s teen struggles are particularly relatable to readers acutely aware of their multiple cultural heritages and who wish to remain true to them all, whilst engaging in a global society and wanting to make a difference. But like many other teens she is: wanting to retain her best friend; interested in romance and travel; and longing to find her true purpose in life.
Asha’s journey to find her true self, is at the heart of this book, but the story is not a pedestrian one, instead we learn that Asha and a couple of her friends started a tshirt Latte Rebellion project, to create more understanding of multiracial students, which spirals into an out of control social movement, which will ultimately challenge friendships, and everything Asha thinks she is as well as alter her life’s future path. This situation elevates this novel above typical light teen novels and takes it into the realm of a deeper book, tackling serious issues relevant to youth today.
Published in 2011, this novel is still highly relevant, in relating the power of feelings of social justice, combined with social media and word of mouth to circulate ideas that can potentially change the world, but the troubles that these concepts might run into as others take them up and frame them for their own purposes. Furthermore, it is a window to the world of the biracial, or multicultural background child and family, where so many cultures are coming together in the one family unit and what this means in the everyday life of the children of those families.
Without giving away the ending, Asha ultimately learns how she individually might make a difference that she is in control of and has the power to shape. This book is satisfying and empowering for anyone who identifies with Asha’s background or who comes to care about her in reading the novel.
I particularly enjoyed Stevenson’s portrayal of Asha’s relationship with her grandmother and found the depiction of the internal pressure Asha feels to succeed at school from her parents, which begins to compete with the need to know and understand herself and make decisions about her own life, not just to please others, authentic. Asha’s horizons broaden with the diversity of people she meets. Asha’s struggles with her friend Carey are realistic and allow Stevenson to explore and compare safe and risky paths to growth, as well as to look at the power and pitfalls of movements.
A special feature of this book are the exhibits when Asha and her friends are on trial for their creation of the Latte Rebellion movement. These are newspaper reports, website excerpts and more. The intertexts often give an alternative viewpoint to Asha’s or fill out her descriptions so readers can gauge the need for and the impact of the Latte Rebellion club.
I highly recommend this book to any library and school wishing to encourage students to understand the complexity of diversity and the many choices we face when wanting to change the world. Young people of diverse and multiple cultural backgrounds would enjoy the character portrayals and find Asha a worthy heroine.
Other Young Adult Novels By Sarah Jamilla Stevenson:
UNDERNEATH (Flux, June 2013)
THE TRUTH AGAINST THE WORLD (Flux, June 2014)
You can find out more about Sarah and her work here http://www.sarahjamilastevenson.com
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