Watch Us Rise

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Watch Us Rise Book Poster Image
Inspiring teen activists join forces in sweet friends tale.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of mentions of modern and classic poets and artists may inspire further research into their lives and work. Brief biographies and quotes given for contemporary feminist artists. A theory about the origin of the phrase "Indian summer" given with an explanation of how it's racist. The main themes in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale briefly explained. A reading list of poems with their authors and a brief explanation of what they're about. A class discussion about reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and some of the issues her experiences raise. An  appendix of  "Resources for Young Activists" includes a list of poets, books, and "Blogs and Sites That Educate and Empower." 

Positive Messages

Make yourself heard. Your voice and your ideas deserve to be listened to. Take action. Stand up for what's right and don't stop fighting for it; you will prevail in the end. Lots of positive messages, sometimes including negative examples, empowering women to fight sexism and people of all colors to fight racism, and encouraging teens especially to fight for social justice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chelsea, Jasmine, Nadine, and Isaac are an ethnically diverse quartet of best friends since childhood. They support one another in countless ways, in good times and bad. They've got one another's backs and fearlessly take action to help one another out. Narrators Chelsea and Jasmine have positive, strong, united families that support them, too. They attend a high school that focuses on social justice and doesn't teach to the test, so many of their teachers are engaged and supportive of the teens as they learn how to be activists.


A punch in the face. A boy slaps a girl on the butt after some verbal and physical aggression, possibly with sexual undertones that aren't 100 percent clear to the girl.


Romantic feelings mentioned or described briefly. One kiss isn't described. One almost-kiss. Past mention of going to third base while making out on the beach.


"P---y," "slut," "whore," and "bitch" aren't used by any characters but are mentioned as being seen or read. One character uses "crap" several times.


Some food, clothing, beverage, and tech products establish character and location. A few playlists with artist and song titles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Chelsea has wine with a holiday dinner. A couple of mentions of a parent having wine with dinner and that she's had enough when she goes on a tirade. Mention that the four friends aren't interested in drinking and that in the past one drank too much, threw up, and is now taking an extended break from it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Watch Us Rise is a novel co-written by the multiple-award-winning Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together) that encourages activism for social justice. It will open lots of teens' eyes and minds to issues surrounding feminism, racism, and more. The main characters are a diverse group of friends during their junior year in high school who are great role models for standing up and fighting for what you believe in, for loyalty to each other and their families, and for finding creative and artistic ways of expressing themselves, especially through poetry. There's one punch in the face and a boy slapping a girl on the buttocks. Strong language is rare and mostly mentions of seeing words like "p---y" and "slut" in titles and graffiti, although one character uses "crap." The teens talk about or describe romantic feelings briefly, and there's one kiss and mention of going to third base in the past. They're not interested in alcohol, but there are a couple of mentions of drinking wine with dinner and a past incident that ended in throwing up. Lots of references to artists and poets may inspire further research, and the characters' examples of activism and creative expression may inspire teen readers to do the same. Many issues related to sexism and racism should provoke lots of thought and discussion.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written bySmart1738 April 19, 2021

Inspirational and Entertaining

I truly did love this book! I love how it’s 100% supports women and anti-racist rights. It has its teenage moments throughout the book but it’s an educational b... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byVagueCarrot May 12, 2020

This is my favourite book!

I don't know why this book has such bad reviews! I love it so much. It deals with important issues like racism and sexism but in a kid-friendly way. I love... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jasmine, Chelsea, Nadine, and Isaac invite you to WATCH US RISE as they fight to find their own voices, and for a place for their voices to be heard. All students at their Harlem high school are required to join a school club where they can put what they've learned about social justice into action. As much as Jasmine loves the theater group, and Chelsea loves the poetry club, they both become increasingly frustrated and restless -- Jasmine by attempts to typecast her as the sassy black girl, and Chelsea by the club's myopic reading list of old, dead, white poets. The two decide to drop out of their clubs and make one of their own, and that's how the "Write Like a Girl" blog is born. Through their posts they explore what it means to be female, and through action they try to create a space for women's voices to be heard. Some of their actions land them in plenty of trouble, proving that they've still got a lot to learn about how to bring about positive change.

Is it any good?

Award-winning novelist Reneée Watson has teamed up with the poet Ellen Hagan to empower teens, especially young women, to find their voices and be heard. Jasmine and Chelsea, high school juniors, take turns narrating Watch Us Rise, which moves the story along and gives two distinctive voices a chance to shine. Through their experiences struggling to be heard by their community, teens will learn a lot about social justice, racism, sexism, feminism, poetry, and lots more.

Chelsea and Jasmine each provide a compelling way for teens to start learning about a lot of big issues, and about a lot of inspiring artists, poets, and activists. They're believable, and teens will relate to their struggles not only for social justice but with themselves as they learn who they are and what they can do. The beginning is a little slow. At first, remembering who's narrating and what their situation is can be confusing, and it feels like the authors are trying too hard to raise too many issues without any resolution. But these things even out soon enough, and the rest of the novel will have readers rooting for the friends as they exercise their right to be heard.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the four best friends in Watch Us Rise. What do you like, or not like, about them? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

  • Did you learn anything about feminism that surprised you? How does being female affect what happens to Chelsea and Jasmine? Are their experiences realistic?

  • What issues bother you the most, and how can you express your feelings about them? Are you inspired to take action after reading this book? What can you do to help make a more just and equal society?

  • The characters and story are heavily influenced by poetry. Is there one poem that really stands out, that you found inspiring or moving?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of activism and social justice

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