The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson has been on my TBR for years. It's one of those books that I just kept pushing down the list for newer ones as they came out. Then I saw it on display while at the library a couple weeks ago and decided now was the time to read it. I'm glad I did.
When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion, a club that raises awareness of mixed-race students.
Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. As new chapters spring up from coast to coast, Asha realizes that her simple marketing plan has taken on a life of its own-and it's starting to ruin hers. Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, and her friendship with Carey is hanging by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing.Facing expulsion, Asha must decide how much she's willing to risk for something she truly believes in.
Asha is a character easy for me to relate to. She is driven and good at organizing things. She also has a deep seeded fear of failure and disappointing her family. The idea to form the Latte Rebellion was not strictly a social awareness campaign. It started as simply a way to raise money for a post senior year trip and as a way to quietly express annoyance at some of the racial slurs that had been so easily thrown at them by some members of the school. Asha herself is surprised by how much the Rebellion comes to mean to her. I liked how her character developed as the story unfolded and how she came to see that there was more to this issue than just herself and opened up to all of it. I also liked the realistic portrayal of the changing dynamic in the friendship between Asha and Carey. The story here definitely belongs to Asha though it takes a while to get to the point where you feel she actually understands the importance of what she has started.
The story unfolds over Asha's senior year. At the end of each chapter, there is a scene from the disciplinary hearing to determine whether or not Asha will be expelled for incidents resulting from the Rebellion. The contrast between the building movement and Asha's fear over what will happen to her builds suspense. This is countered somewhat by how many details of meetings and meetings and more meetings there are. I did find myself skimming a bit here and there. Overall though, I really enjoyed the story and the themes Stevenson explored through it. The complicated relationships, both in Asha's friendships and family, made this worth it for me.