Like Vanessa

Written by Tami Charles

A little slow at the start, but this ended up being an inspiring,and emotional book. It is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s aspirations and accomplishments. This book is set in 1983 and begins on the night that Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win the Miss America Pageant. The main character, Vanessa (Nessy) Martin, an 8th grader, watches the program with her grandfather, and realizes the door may be opened for her to follow in Williams’ footsteps. Being in the Miss America Pageant has always been in Nessy’s dreams, but since she, being very dark “blue black,” looks different than anyone else in the pageant, she didn’t think it was possible. When a new teacher at the school institutes the first Miss King Middle School Pageant and offers to mentor her, Nessy knows she must give it a try.

Nessy’s home life, and her family background are all obstacles she must endure and overcome. The book deals with alcoholism, homosexuality, female development, body image, incarceration, bullying, adult mentoring, and ethnic diversity with strong Latin and African American characters. I would suggest it to no younger than a mature 5th grader. And this is a book that I think would lack appeal to boys.

Since it covers so many different spectrums, it seems to have too many happy endings. But it is a good read and Nessy is a strong female character. I really liked the information about Vanessa Williams and what happens to her and why she was replaced as Miss America. It is an excellent vision into how much has changed since the early 1980s.

Review by Terrie Bishop, Academy Park Media Center
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 5-9

Like Vanessa
Written by Tami Charles
Charlesbridge
284 pages
Release Date: March 13, 2018
A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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