When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris is twisty and suspenseful but along with this there is a strong underlying element that explores the ongoing issues surrounding classism, racism and privilege. Jay and his sister, Nic live with their grandma, MiMi, since their dad passed and their mom went to prison. They’re a close-knit family but since Nic started dating local drug dealer, Javon, she’s changed. Staying out all night, skipping out on school and tripping on Bliss, so when she texts him one night from what sounds like a rager, Jay figures he’s had enough of bailing her out and ignores her the rest of the night. When Nic doesn’t show up to school the next day or home that next night, Jay realizes that Nic may be in trouble. From here, Jay, trying to protect MiMi, does his own sleuthing but even when he does decide to go to the police, he’s met with resistance because Nic isn’t the kind of girl that the cops put out an APB out on.
As much as this is a plot driven story, it is a strongly character driven, too. Jayson is a such a good kid, he works hard at school, he does other kids’ homework to earn some extra cash to help his MiMi retire somewhere amazing, you just can’t help but love him and root for him. Nic, too, is as much of a victim of her environment and those that would take advantage of that. The obstacles that Jay runs in to are heartbreaking, this kid is literally walking a line. Those in his neighborhood look at him with suspicion and the cops, those that are supposed to protect and serve, do the same. The media, too, who should’ve focused on helping to find a missing teen turned it into a side-show circus by placing blame on the victim. There’s a lot to absorb and process in When You Look Like Us and this is a book I’ll be recommending to a lot of people.
I want to thank @epicreads for gifting me this book and the author for writing it. This is a powerful book with deep insight and a message we all need to hear.