This book, very quietly, blew me away. It’s understated like the main character, but packs a huge punch and delivers authentic dialogue within its short chapters. It’s not told in verse but at times held that quality, showcasing the writing of Watson while getting to know Jade. Jade knows she has to work harder than her counterparts at her private school for white, rich kids, about an hour’s bus ride away from her hood in North Portland. She’s not afraid of a little hard work but she’d like some recognition for it once and awhile. She’s tired of being labeled “at risk” and given opportunities based on her address, not her achievements. She tutors, has excellent grades, good test scores, and looks forward to the day her Spanish teacher nominates her for a study abroad program. Except, she’s nominated for a program called “Woman to Woman” in which she is paired with a mentor she’s supposed to connect with and learn from on visits to cultural landmarks around the city. If she sticks with the program, a scholarship is promised. All this is well and good for Jane, but she’s not impressed with her mentor or the program. Maxine might be black but she definitely isn’t from Jade’s neighborhood, and she keeps blowing her off for her ex-boyfriend. Not cool, Maxine. Not cool. While Jade is navigating high school, a new white friend who just doesn’t get it sometimes, and a mom who works so hard she barely sees her, the Woman to Woman program is failing her. Visiting museums and touring places that have nothing to do with what Jade needs is a waste of time. Maxine’s childhood was vastly different that Jades and while it’s evident to her, Maxine seems oblivious. Not to say she isn’t trying, she is, but it feels like she’s doing it for all the wrong reasons.
What makes this book relatable is the struggle Jane has finding her voice, specifically with Maxine. She’s tired of feeling like a charity case of hers and wants more. She wants to learn things like how to keep a budget in college and what it takes to run a business but speaking up isn’t something she’s good at until she realizes if she wants anything to change, she has to be that change. Self-advocacy isn’t something that is natural to her, but once she starts, she’s not stopping. While this book is more than just Maxine and Jade, it was their talks that moved me the most. Maxine’s interest in Jade starts out simple, but by the end, she starts to see what Jade is really saying. Art is a huge part of this story, and Jade’s collage art is the perfect medium for her to use her voice when she can’t find the words. I hope those who read this take the time to digest the cover and appreciate it and see Jade for who she is. She’s “bold, brave, beautiful, and brilliant.” She’s Jade.