What Momma Left Me by Renée Watson Book Review
I was pretty sceptical when picking up this book because I didn’t enjoy the first novel I read by Renée Watson at all (Piecing Me Together – I couldn’t even bring myself to review it) – however, I did try to keep an open mind when reading this new release. Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing Australia for sending me the ARC for this novel in exchange for an honest review – and it’s gonna be short and honest because again, unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this one by Watson either.
Rediscover Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winner Renée Watson’s heart-rending debut, about one girl’s journey to reconnect to joy.
Serenity is good at keeping secrets, and she’s got a whole lifetime’s worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents’ house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn’t sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of just who she is.
Renée Watson’s stunning writing shines in this powerful and ultimately uplifting novel.
From the get-go, we are introduced to our main protagonist Serenity who’s recently gone through some serious trauma with the death of her mother. She’s forcibly propelled into a new environment, living with her very religious maternal grandparents, starting at a new school and dealing with her brother’s own grieving/coping methods that end up becoming very risky and unhealthy social behaviours.
This novel was certainly hard to get into for me because I’m not very religious at all and Serenity’s faith is a major character and plot point in this book as that’s what she turns to, to heal and cope with her grief. The story and the most important – and honestly the only truly enjoyable part of the story – was reading as she finally accepts her mother’s death, and embraces living a full life with her memory.
That said, Serenity was possibly one of the most annoying 13-14-year-old characters I’ve ever read and herself, made some decisions that had me rolling my eyes so hard. Despite her age, her ‘personal’ first-person writing style was a constant annoyance with some grammatical errors and her insistent childish language. Her overuse of ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy’ was a serious setback to me even continuing this book because it irked me so much. Many (if not all, I can’t remember) of the chapters had her English poetry assignments at the start with definition and examples of use and I personally had no interest in reading those. They felt just as juvenile and although I’m sure they had a motive to help add depth to her character and the story as she’s learning how to cope through writing her assignments, they were not interesting to read in the least.
I do enjoy meeting and reading about the journeys of the side-characters. For such minor roles, they had great depth and kept me interested. The writing for the book overall was alright, not amazing and quite simplistic. To me, it seems like the audience for this book is definitely younger than my age (of 20) and towards others who may be more religious or religion-inclined, unlike myself. The overall message of the book was inspiring, had a great and positive intent. Unfortunately, I didn’t particularly enjoy this one and its delivery wasn’t amazing.
If you’re looking for a short, simple, diverse and somewhat deep contemporary, I’d recommend for you to give this a go. To be honest, I just hope that I enjoy other/future novels by Watson much more than this one.
Thanks for reading!