“Love is a Revolution” by Renee Watson follows a girl named Nala during her summer break, in which she manages to create a whole new — and fake — identity to impress her crush.
The character Imani is introduced in the first chapter as Nala’s “cousin-sister-friend” whom Nala has lived with since the fight she intentionally started with her mom. Flashbacks reveal that after overhearing her mom discuss the difficulty of taking care of her children, Nala left her home, knocked on her cousin-sister-friend’s door, and joined the family.
The first event in the novel is not one Nala was excited about. Regardless, she agrees to a night of fun for Imani’s birthday. But of course, Imani takes her to a meeting for Inspire Harlem, an activist organization with all Imani’s friends.
The meeting is the supposed fantasy moment where Nala falls in love with her supposedly charming man. Quite the contrast though, considering Tye is a part of Inspire Harlem and has nothing in common with Nala.
Logically, Nala decides to lie about why she’s at the meeting, what her values are and what she does in her free time because she wants Tye to like her.
Watson does a good job at creating realistic relationship problems for Nala and Tye, one being the symbolic meaning of Tye gifting Nala a reusable water bottle. Rightfully, the readers get to hear every thought that goes through Nala’s head.
We know that with every plastic water bottle Nala uses, she feels the silent judgment from her Inspire Harlem peers, and Nala hates being judged. So just as any relationship based on a lie would operate, Nala and Tye have many trivial arguments, one being Tye’s sustainable gift to Nala. Every disposable plastic is the Grim Reaper of Inspire Harlem’s values after all.
The shortcoming is that Nala doesn’t share any romantic, cute, or even friendly moments with Tye. Nala passively refers to the fun she had with Tye after their summer break ends, but the point of a romance is to take the reader through the couple’s emotions as if the reader were in the story.
“Love is a Revolution” is more about the sisterly bond between Nala and Imani than a romance between Nala and Tye. The story conveys a lesson of self-love and sisterly love. The novel just wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Imani’s character.
Nala must learn to be herself and expect people to love her for who she is. Meanwhile, Imani is fed up with Nala spending so much time with her Inspire Harlem friends, the one sector of her life that Nala hadn’t infiltrated until her lie began. She sacrifices family time so she can thrive in her own domain and spend time away from her role as an older sister.
Imani must escape the mentality that Nala is stealing every aspect of her life, and Nala must accept that people enjoy her personality — her real personality.