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When You Look Like Us

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When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends. But she’s When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends. But she’s been gone too long now. If I hadn’t hung up on her that night, she’d be spending time with our grandma. If I was a better brother, she’d be finishing senior year instead of being another name on a missing persons list. It’s time to step up and do what the Newport News police department won’t. Nic, I’m bringing you home.


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When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends. But she’s When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends. But she’s been gone too long now. If I hadn’t hung up on her that night, she’d be spending time with our grandma. If I was a better brother, she’d be finishing senior year instead of being another name on a missing persons list. It’s time to step up and do what the Newport News police department won’t. Nic, I’m bringing you home.

30 review for When You Look Like Us

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stay Fetters

    “Cops don’t listen to guys like me—and they damn sure don’t care about girls like Nic.” I started this book knowing full well that I had to be an adult and do adult things before the holiday comes around. I told myself that I would read a few pages here and there while I had a spare moment. What a joke that was! I lied to myself because I finished this in less than a day. I couldn’t put down this heart-stopping read. It was one of those books where I wanted answers but never wanted it to end. Thi “Cops don’t listen to guys like me—and they damn sure don’t care about girls like Nic.” I started this book knowing full well that I had to be an adult and do adult things before the holiday comes around. I told myself that I would read a few pages here and there while I had a spare moment. What a joke that was! I lied to myself because I finished this in less than a day. I couldn’t put down this heart-stopping read. It was one of those books where I wanted answers but never wanted it to end. This book takes us on a journey of how far you're willing to go for family and to stand up for what you believe in. That rumors are just that and we should judge people and things by our way of thinking and not anyone else's. That just because someone is in a blue uniform doesn't make them trustworthy or have your best interests at heart. I was instantly transported into this book from page one and it was one that will always cling to me. Jay was a strong and level-headed character that you couldn't help but feel attached to and to what he was feeling and doing. He spoke from the heart and from deep down within his soul. You feel that through the power of his words and actions. The power and love that he brought forth was something I've never experienced with a character before and it was mesmerizing. The close relationship he has with his family is amazing and I'm glad that they never shied away from that. When You Look Like Me was a powerful page-turner. This phenomenal mystery was one that kept me invested all the way through that contained lots of heart, growth, and the power of never giving up. This is one hell of a debut that you won't want to miss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Toria

    I overall really liked the story and was hard to stop listening to. Very suspensfull YA even tough there hardly is any action.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vee

    Wordpress Blog | Twitter I was fully expecting this to be a five star read, but I was disappointed by how much the story dragged on, with Jay doing little to nothing to find his sister until he had help. While the setting and story was dark and realistic, I felt that the end veered away from this, and wasn't at all believable. Jay is a hard character for me to like. I appreciated the stress he was under, being a black kid from a lower class neighbourhood, trying to look after his Gran. However, wh Wordpress Blog | Twitter I was fully expecting this to be a five star read, but I was disappointed by how much the story dragged on, with Jay doing little to nothing to find his sister until he had help. While the setting and story was dark and realistic, I felt that the end veered away from this, and wasn't at all believable. Jay is a hard character for me to like. I appreciated the stress he was under, being a black kid from a lower class neighbourhood, trying to look after his Gran. However, when Nic went missing I really felt that he didn't do anything, until Riley, a girl he fancied, took interest in finding her and he really just tagged along. I also struggled to understand why Jay was so reluctant to tell the people closest to him that Nic was missing, especially his friend and girlfriend, who likely thought that Jay was hooking up with other girls behind her back. Instead he just asked people who may know info vague questions and gave up quickly. Overall, an interesting but frustrating story. I liked the realistic setting and look into Jay's life as a young black teen very much, but when we did finally get to the end and found our answers, I thought it did verge into the ridiculous. I did like that it showed how much Jay had grown over the course of the story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    sahar

    there are a lot of things right about this: the story telling, the fluidity of the writing, the heartfelt way in which it shines a light on how tough situations can bring people together. the only thing that bothered me was the lack of character development. jayson expected people to know what he needed despite his constant lack of communication and acceptance of responsibility. he reacted to everything irrationally instead of stepping back and thinking situations through. this continued through there are a lot of things right about this: the story telling, the fluidity of the writing, the heartfelt way in which it shines a light on how tough situations can bring people together. the only thing that bothered me was the lack of character development. jayson expected people to know what he needed despite his constant lack of communication and acceptance of responsibility. he reacted to everything irrationally instead of stepping back and thinking situations through. this continued throughout the book and unfortunately was the only thing keeping it from being a five star read. overall, this was a super intriguing story that kept me on my toes and i plan on checking out the author again in the future. ➵ 3 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lorca Damon

    OMG this was an awesome book! It's absolutely rare that I ever think, "I wish there were more than five stars!" but this one fits that bill. As someone who reviews constantly, edits frequently, and is also a published author with constant deadlines, it's also rare that I get caught up at 11 o'clock at night finishing a book, but this one did that too. What set this book apart for me--as someone who was an English teacher for 24 years and taught in juvenile corrections, so knows her way around div OMG this was an awesome book! It's absolutely rare that I ever think, "I wish there were more than five stars!" but this one fits that bill. As someone who reviews constantly, edits frequently, and is also a published author with constant deadlines, it's also rare that I get caught up at 11 o'clock at night finishing a book, but this one did that too. What set this book apart for me--as someone who was an English teacher for 24 years and taught in juvenile corrections, so knows her way around diverse voices in YA--was the fact that this was not just another "my terrible life in the ghetto" book. This story accurately portrayed the greater reality, that man students who would be considered at-risk and who may live in less-than-ideal conditions also attend schools with affluent students. Too many people think of "black schools" and "white schools" instead of schools filled with students of every race and color, as well as every income level and need. Aside from that aspect which first made me fall in love with this book, the author seamlessly weaves a story of a typical teenager who happens to face tremendous obstacles. Yes, his father is absent, but it's due to cancer (not the stereotype). Yes, his mother is in prison, but it's due to alcoholism caused by grief that led to a DUI (again, not the stereotype). Yes, the protagonist is a young black male, but as even he points out, his pants don't sag and he's being hounded throughout the book to accept the position of co-editor of his high school's lit mag. No stereotypes there either, just a normal, semi-adjusted student. His problems arise early when his sister disappears. This is where the stereotypes hit hard, though. Jay turns to the police, who dismiss him outright. A local news channel picks up the story to do a public plea, then turns it into a scandal piece and paints his sister as a drug-using dropout who's dating a drug dealer. Suffice to say, the "bad guys" in the book turn out to be heroes, the "good guys" are the worst of the worst. It was great to see a book that was so intricately woven, so well-written, and so engaging that also manages to blow apart the stereotypes. Highly recommend this read!!!

  6. 5 out of 5

    LiteraryMarie

    What does "us" look like? Brown skin, brown eyes, black hair, braids or fades, according to Jay Murphy. Most people assume we are trouble. And sadly, no one thinks twice about a missing black girl. For a minute, even Jay assumed his sister, Nicole, was off hanging with her boyfriend. But she's been gone too long. When the police department doesn't do anything about the missing persons report, Jay takes it upon himself to find and bring Nicole back home. When You Look Like Us is very timely. How o What does "us" look like? Brown skin, brown eyes, black hair, braids or fades, according to Jay Murphy. Most people assume we are trouble. And sadly, no one thinks twice about a missing black girl. For a minute, even Jay assumed his sister, Nicole, was off hanging with her boyfriend. But she's been gone too long. When the police department doesn't do anything about the missing persons report, Jay takes it upon himself to find and bring Nicole back home. When You Look Like Us is very timely. How often are people of color treated differently or just plain disregarded? How many black girls are missing and no one seems to care? How many times have you started a sentence with, "When you look like us..."? Lastly, how many young black boys have to grow up too early when adults don't step up? Pamela N. Harris brought these issues to the forefront with well written fiction and characters that could easily be our brother or sister. It's the copyeditor in me that notices small details. *wink, wink* for the book beginning and ending with a thump, thump, thump. So add, add, add it to your reading list for 2021. Happy Early Pub Day, Pamela N. Harris! When You Look Like Us will be available Tuesday, January 5. ~LiteraryMarie

  7. 4 out of 5

    mili ✩彡

    this book has been haunting me since i put it down— the raw, unvarnished storyline. the various unexpected turns of events. THE ENDING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ i have not been able to stop thinking about the characters. about the kids who come from “bad news” neighborhoods. about all the Jays. all the Nicoles. all the Kennys. about me reading this from the comfort of my privilege. “This will only be my fuel, not my combustion,” she said. She told me her postsecondary plans [...] She wanted to fight against the this book has been haunting me since i put it down— the raw, unvarnished storyline. the various unexpected turns of events. THE ENDING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ i have not been able to stop thinking about the characters. about the kids who come from “bad news” neighborhoods. about all the Jays. all the Nicoles. all the Kennys. about me reading this from the comfort of my privilege. “This will only be my fuel, not my combustion,” she said. She told me her postsecondary plans [...] She wanted to fight against the system that for so long fought against people who look like her. Yeah . . . my sister’s tough as titanium.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I genuinely enjoyed reading "When You Look Like Us." I thought this book was well written and very timely. The characters were relatable and it was easy to empathize with Jay in his search for Nic. I was often frustrated by his attempt to stay out of her business, and I think good writing makes the reader feel these types of emotions. I was constantly hoping that Jay would get it together and so it built investment as he was going through this process. The characters were developed and Jay's gro I genuinely enjoyed reading "When You Look Like Us." I thought this book was well written and very timely. The characters were relatable and it was easy to empathize with Jay in his search for Nic. I was often frustrated by his attempt to stay out of her business, and I think good writing makes the reader feel these types of emotions. I was constantly hoping that Jay would get it together and so it built investment as he was going through this process. The characters were developed and Jay's growth specifically was strong. The book touched on important topics and brought to light how easily it is to make assumptions about people, even within a specific community, because of how society in general is so quick to have such biases. I look forward to this book's publication and recommending it to my students!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris is twisty and suspenseful but along with this there is a strong underlying element that explores the ongoing issues surrounding classism, racism and privilege. Jay and his sister, Nic live with their grandma, MiMi, since their dad passed and their mom went to prison. They’re a close-knit family but since Nic started dating local drug dealer, Javon, she’s changed. Staying out all night, skipping out on school and tripping on Bliss, so when she texts him o When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris is twisty and suspenseful but along with this there is a strong underlying element that explores the ongoing issues surrounding classism, racism and privilege. Jay and his sister, Nic live with their grandma, MiMi, since their dad passed and their mom went to prison. They’re a close-knit family but since Nic started dating local drug dealer, Javon, she’s changed. Staying out all night, skipping out on school and tripping on Bliss, so when she texts him one night from what sounds like a rager, Jay figures he’s had enough of bailing her out and ignores her the rest of the night. When Nic doesn’t show up to school the next day or home that next night, Jay realizes that Nic may be in trouble. From here, Jay, trying to protect MiMi, does his own sleuthing but even when he does decide to go to the police, he’s met with resistance because Nic isn’t the kind of girl that the cops put out an APB out on. As much as this is a plot driven story, it is a strongly character driven, too. Jayson is a such a good kid, he works hard at school, he does other kids’ homework to earn some extra cash to help his MiMi retire somewhere amazing, you just can’t help but love him and root for him. Nic, too, is as much of a victim of her environment and those that would take advantage of that. The obstacles that Jay runs in to are heartbreaking, this kid is literally walking a line. Those in his neighborhood look at him with suspicion and the cops, those that are supposed to protect and serve, do the same. The media, too, who should’ve focused on helping to find a missing teen turned it into a side-show circus by placing blame on the victim. There’s a lot to absorb and process in When You Look Like Us and this is a book I’ll be recommending to a lot of people. I want to thank @epicreads for gifting me this book and the author for writing it. This is a powerful book with deep insight and a message we all need to hear.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ris Sasaki

    It is so good when you read about a book that not only the story and the characters felt so real and layered but also has a HUGE social commentary that makes you think even after you finish the last page And that's exactly When You Look Like Us felt to me. Not only I could sense that every single character could be a real person, but the details and the commentary about skin color, racism and police work were on point. I must say though that the thriller aspect of this book and the twist at the e It is so good when you read about a book that not only the story and the characters felt so real and layered but also has a HUGE social commentary that makes you think even after you finish the last page And that's exactly When You Look Like Us felt to me. Not only I could sense that every single character could be a real person, but the details and the commentary about skin color, racism and police work were on point. I must say though that the thriller aspect of this book and the twist at the end of it were kinda underwhelming for me even though I truly appreciated all the background and the message that the author was trying to portrait by the disappearance of Nic. Overall, totally worth the read and TOTALLY DESERVES MORE HYPE.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    This was more of a 3.50 read 🚨 Jay lives with his grandma and sister Nicole on the poor side of Newport News, Va called the Ducks. Jay is smart, studious, and has a bright future ahead of him despite having been dealt a rough hand. His sister Nicole has been his rock through their difficult path, however recently Nicole found herself dating the neighborhood drug dealer. Then one night Nicole calls Jay and is really vague and then he doesn’t see or hear from her for days. People in the neighborhoo This was more of a 3.50 read 🚨 Jay lives with his grandma and sister Nicole on the poor side of Newport News, Va called the Ducks. Jay is smart, studious, and has a bright future ahead of him despite having been dealt a rough hand. His sister Nicole has been his rock through their difficult path, however recently Nicole found herself dating the neighborhood drug dealer. Then one night Nicole calls Jay and is really vague and then he doesn’t see or hear from her for days. People in the neighborhood are dead and Nicole is still nowhere to be found. After going to the police for help, Jay realizes if anyone is going to find his sister it will have to be him. I enjoyed this book. It read a lot like The Hate You Give. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. However, the story just kind of drug on after the middle. It was very engaging at the beginning but then just kept failing to produce the next big scene.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Forever Young Adult

    Graded By: Stephanie Cover Story: Mixed Media Art Project BFF Charm: Big Sister Swoonworthy Scale: 5 Talky Talk: Black Lives Matter Bonus Factors: Brothers & Sisters Relationship Status: LYLAB(rother) Read the full book report here. Graded By: Stephanie Cover Story: Mixed Media Art Project BFF Charm: Big Sister Swoonworthy Scale: 5 Talky Talk: Black Lives Matter Bonus Factors: Brothers & Sisters Relationship Status: LYLAB(rother) Read the full book report here.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Fink

    3.5 stars* Thanks to the publisher for sending me an arc copy! I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to. I expected it to be slow and frankly boring, but it was anything but. It actually had me not wanting to put it down, which doesn’t happen a lot to me. I became connected to the characters. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them. I loved the development and range of relationships in this book. The romance in this book was unexpected but thoroughly loved. We had deep family 3.5 stars* Thanks to the publisher for sending me an arc copy! I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to. I expected it to be slow and frankly boring, but it was anything but. It actually had me not wanting to put it down, which doesn’t happen a lot to me. I became connected to the characters. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them. I loved the development and range of relationships in this book. The romance in this book was unexpected but thoroughly loved. We had deep family and friend relationships that built up the story. Everything was very life-like. The pace was fast, and I was never bored with events. The timing and structuring of the plot was done very well. This book has the right amount of impactfulness and entertainment. There is a lot to take away from this story; it’s very inciteful. I enjoyed the writing style of the book. It didn’t use complicated words to try and be fancy. It was easy to read but still gave me enough detail to be able to fully understand events and descriptions. The only thing I don’t like is that this book does curse a good deal. I would say it’s not YA. However, there isn’t really any adult themes except drugs. Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time and I’m glad I read this book before the end of the year.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    4.5 stars. Well-written and a good slice-of-life contemporary that I enjoyed quite a bit while reading, although looking back just a week later I don't know how long the details will really stick with me. Check out my full review at Forever Young Adult. 4.5 stars. Well-written and a good slice-of-life contemporary that I enjoyed quite a bit while reading, although looking back just a week later I don't know how long the details will really stick with me. Check out my full review at Forever Young Adult.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gemini

    Kept Me On My Toes This book had an element of suspense that I wasn’t expecting. I kept trying to solve the mystery. Towards the end I found myself holding my breath, hoping for a happy ending. At times, I thought the dialogue wasn’t believable. I didn’t feel like it fit for a teenage boy. Overall, I thought it was a really good story. Jay had an amazing village supporting him. It was endearing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    aviva

    A heart breaking story about family, and lost. This story follow Jayson a high school teenager who trying to hold down his sister and take care of grandmother , all while trying to handle the pressures of life . His burden become heavier when his sister Nic goes missing. Determine find her , he teams up with an unlikely ally , doing everything possible to bring her home, even if everyone one else seems to give up hope . . I love the development of Jays character , how throughout the story he grow A heart breaking story about family, and lost. This story follow Jayson a high school teenager who trying to hold down his sister and take care of grandmother , all while trying to handle the pressures of life . His burden become heavier when his sister Nic goes missing. Determine find her , he teams up with an unlikely ally , doing everything possible to bring her home, even if everyone one else seems to give up hope . . I love the development of Jays character , how throughout the story he grows and matured , confronting his own beliefs and stereotypes. A powerful story about overcoming obstacles and fighting together .

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "When You Look Like Us" by Pamela Harris is a novel that centers around the main character, Jay, and his search for his sister who went missing after a party. Nic's disappearance coincides with his grandmother's failing health, school responsibilities, a new job, overall teenage emotions, a deceased father, an incarcerated mother, and overall societal factors that make life hard for Black men. Needless to say, Jay has a lot going on, and on top of this, the police don't seem too concerned about "When You Look Like Us" by Pamela Harris is a novel that centers around the main character, Jay, and his search for his sister who went missing after a party. Nic's disappearance coincides with his grandmother's failing health, school responsibilities, a new job, overall teenage emotions, a deceased father, an incarcerated mother, and overall societal factors that make life hard for Black men. Needless to say, Jay has a lot going on, and on top of this, the police don't seem too concerned about his sister's disappearance and engage in victim blaming. I thought the characters and the dialogue was good, and I liked the way that Harris included all of the happenings in Jay's life without it feeling too forced. I thought this was really good YA lit, and I recommend it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gina Malanga

    Jayson has been trying to hold it down for his sister, who is running a little wild, and his grandmother, who is having health problems. When his sister Nic goes missing Jayson is determined to find her dead or alive and not let her become another story for the media about the “poor little black girl.” Working to counter other people’s stereotypes of people who look and live like him qnd his family, he also has to confront some beliefs of his own about the people around him. A powerful story abo Jayson has been trying to hold it down for his sister, who is running a little wild, and his grandmother, who is having health problems. When his sister Nic goes missing Jayson is determined to find her dead or alive and not let her become another story for the media about the “poor little black girl.” Working to counter other people’s stereotypes of people who look and live like him qnd his family, he also has to confront some beliefs of his own about the people around him. A powerful story about fighting for your family, sticking together and being open. A great read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    A great story about a missing girl and how the system isn't fair when girls go missing and they are black instead of blonde haired and blue eyed. A page-turner that will keep you reading until the end. A great story about a missing girl and how the system isn't fair when girls go missing and they are black instead of blonde haired and blue eyed. A page-turner that will keep you reading until the end.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lindaisa

    When You Look Like Us is a story many Black people have experienced or heard about. Either directly or by extension–through someone they know, a childhood friend, a distant cousin, an old classmate...even through social media because it has been made abundantly clear, through fiction and reality, missing Black folks are not a priority for the media. But for me When You Look Like Us was more than just a story shining a magnifying glass on how Black people are seen and treated as less than, or vil When You Look Like Us is a story many Black people have experienced or heard about. Either directly or by extension–through someone they know, a childhood friend, a distant cousin, an old classmate...even through social media because it has been made abundantly clear, through fiction and reality, missing Black folks are not a priority for the media. But for me When You Look Like Us was more than just a story shining a magnifying glass on how Black people are seen and treated as less than, or vilified and dismissed even when we're the victim. Jay and Nics story also shined a light on how a history of being cast aside and even demonized in times of need or when we are wronged, has irrevocably altered the way we move through spaces and communicate or fail to when we need help. There were so many instances throughout the book when Jay began worrying about his sisters' whereabouts and then became genuinely concerned, that I wanted to scream "TELL SOMEONE" but I didn't because I understood without him even having to explain, why he was hesitant to do so. Because what will people say? What will they think? How will they spin the narrative to make it seem like Nic wasn't deserving of his or anyone else's concern. How quickly will they dismiss his fears? All valid feelings and fears that all came to fruition. I wanted to be pissed and outraged at the lack of sense of urgency from the police when Jay originally got the courage to speak up about his missing sister. I wanted to be pissed at how quickly the same police took the first piece of circumstantial evidence they could find to try and close the case without even having found his sister. I wanted to be horrified by the way the local news station misconstrued and twisted the words of Jay and his grandmother to further the narrative that his sister was a miscreant who asked for the predicament she was in. But I couldn't because we see it on such a consistent basis that I am numb to it. But because of that, I'm glad Pamela focused more on Jay and his love and dedication to his grandmother and sister, his focus and determination to be a good student, and ultimately his unwavering commitment to finding his sister and bringing her home. Getting to know Jay as he tried to find his sister endeared him so much to me and helped to overshadow the numbness and almost anger I would have had while reading this book. I felt devastation, stress, fear, and anger not because of how unfair everything seemed to be or because of all the deadends Jay faced with ZERO help from the so-called authorities. But because Pamela did a great job of making you care about and empathize with Jay. Was this book an exciting thriller with constant twists and turns and zero time to catch your breath between one adventure and the next? No, but it was a relatable, genuine, and authentic feeling story. One that kept me invested, engaged, and entertained.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    This is a little book with a lot of heart, and I think I would've enjoyed it a lot as a high schooler. Since I do often enjoy young adult novels as an adult reader, I picked this one based entirely on the cover with no prior knowledge and hoped for the best. Now, where I'm from, "bliss" is slang for bath salts. The action of the book centers largely around bliss dealers and bliss-heads in and around the protagonist's neighborhood, and the descriptions are vague enough that bliss could easily be s This is a little book with a lot of heart, and I think I would've enjoyed it a lot as a high schooler. Since I do often enjoy young adult novels as an adult reader, I picked this one based entirely on the cover with no prior knowledge and hoped for the best. Now, where I'm from, "bliss" is slang for bath salts. The action of the book centers largely around bliss dealers and bliss-heads in and around the protagonist's neighborhood, and the descriptions are vague enough that bliss could easily be slang for a hard drug of some kind. So I got about halfway through the book before it's made clear that Harris is using "bliss" as a code word for cannabis... which completely changed my experience of the book, and took a lot of the impact out of it for me. I likely would've found it much more impactful either pre-decriminalization, or if bliss had remained vague enough that it could be code for any hard drug. The author also has a few favorite words that come up over and over again, which becomes very obvious by about hour six of an audiobook. By the time I reached the end of the book, I was intensely tired of the word "smirk." A lot of the characters smirk... a lot of the time. All that said, though, I think this is a book that would resonate with many young readers. It's easy to identify with Jay's sense of disenfranchisement and hopelessness, and he's an easy character to root for - but he's also complicated, and occasionally frustrating, which keeps him interesting. It seems like he goes through a rapid-fire character arc in the last quarter of the novel, as does another character, and I wish that the arc had been a little bit more drawn out, but like I said - it has a lot of heart.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    YA is really stepping it up with Own Voices stories and I am so here for it! When You Look Like Us by Pamela Harris is another 5 star read for me. “When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and YA is really stepping it up with Own Voices stories and I am so here for it! When You Look Like Us by Pamela Harris is another 5 star read for me. “When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends. But she’s been gone too long now.” Jay. A protagonist I loved. Let’s be clear. This book isn’t written for white girl me. It isn’t an anti-racist book where I can continue unlearning the system of white supremacy I’ve been raised in. Yet it eloquently presents the kids I’ve seen more of in my experience with the Black community. The ones I know aren’t portrayed enough in tv, books, and the media. Jay is the smart, literary, church-going Black student at the diverse school he attends. His circumstances though outside of school are where he can’t catch a break. Harris shows her readers the range of Black stories and family life that aren’t always depicted. The good and the hard. The faith, and hope, and resiliency. Oh, and a good mystery of what the heck happened to Jay’s sister to keep you turning the pages! It’ll infuriate you, sadden you, and I can’t tell you the end. Just read it! Thank you to @booksforwardpr @pamharriswrites #quilltreepress for my gifted ARC.

  23. 4 out of 5

    alice ☼

    3 stars! — [♡] ‧₊˚✧ amongst all the books being published today, this one doesn’t stand out as being anything spectacular. when i wasn’t reading it, it wasn’t on my mind and i never felt eager to jump back to it, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really interesting book, with perhaps a few too many characters. when you look like us introduces us to jay, a sixteen year old high school student, who lives with his grandmother and sister, nicole. while nic has a reputation for being a party girl 3 stars! — [♡] ‧₊˚✧ amongst all the books being published today, this one doesn’t stand out as being anything spectacular. when i wasn’t reading it, it wasn’t on my mind and i never felt eager to jump back to it, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really interesting book, with perhaps a few too many characters. when you look like us introduces us to jay, a sixteen year old high school student, who lives with his grandmother and sister, nicole. while nic has a reputation for being a party girl when jay hasn’t heard from her in a few days, he knows this time it’s different. initially, jay’s reaction to nicole’s disappearance is quite delayed and while the synopsis causes you to believe he really fights to get his sister back when really, he lets everyone else do the fighting for him. the only exceptions was towards the end of the book, so i guess when it really mattered, he was there. he was obviously very young and worried given the circumstances, so his options were limited. as i previously mentioned i felt there were just too many characters constantly being introduced so there was that lack of connection and personality i would usually get when reading. i did not find jay to be overall very likeable and thought he was portrayed as a rather one dimensional typical teenager. i felt some of this book was done very messily and there were moments that could’ve been further explored but i did enjoy it and found myself flying through the pages once i had the time to sit down. despite the hardships the characters had suffered, the ending was positive, which i really loved. warning for drug use/addiction, off page death of a parent, and violence.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Hager

    This is a really good and really intense book. I don't think it's a new revelation that some cases get more attention than others, and it's not usually hard to guess which ones will. And when Jay's sister Nic goes missing, he knows that she won't be one of those faces plastered all over the news, which means that he's probably her best shot of being found. It reminded me a little bit of that movie The Vanishing. It's not a perfect parallel (Nic is Jay's sister, not his girlfriend) but the single- This is a really good and really intense book. I don't think it's a new revelation that some cases get more attention than others, and it's not usually hard to guess which ones will. And when Jay's sister Nic goes missing, he knows that she won't be one of those faces plastered all over the news, which means that he's probably her best shot of being found. It reminded me a little bit of that movie The Vanishing. It's not a perfect parallel (Nic is Jay's sister, not his girlfriend) but the single-minded obsession is similar and I don't think it's a spoiler to say that his detective work puts him in serious danger, too. It's hard to believe that this is Pamela Harris' first book. I love the way that she drew this story. The characters, the pacing and the word choice are all completely perfect. Every twist and turn is surprising but also makes complete sense. Nothing feels forced or rushed and I seriously cannot wait to read her next book. I hope there's an announcement soon. Highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Humphrey

    Realistic fiction that delivered on what was promised. Jay is a "good" kid, but his sister Nicole's been dating a drug dealer and partying too hard. When she goes missing, Jay makes it his mission to find her. He's faced with multiple hurdles, including the police and her boyfriend. The book includes many tropes: (view spoiler)[ the reporter who interviews the family about Nicole, then makes an expose about how she's a "bad" girl, the "good" black police officer who's a member of Jay's church but Realistic fiction that delivered on what was promised. Jay is a "good" kid, but his sister Nicole's been dating a drug dealer and partying too hard. When she goes missing, Jay makes it his mission to find her. He's faced with multiple hurdles, including the police and her boyfriend. The book includes many tropes: (view spoiler)[ the reporter who interviews the family about Nicole, then makes an expose about how she's a "bad" girl, the "good" black police officer who's a member of Jay's church but still implies that Nicole's a runaway, the teacher who is trying to get Jay to take the SAT and join the literary magazine, the "good-hearted" drug addict, Jay's well-meaning white best friend. (hide spoiler)] The mystery and the plotting is brisk enough to keep students engaged, the positive message about making assumptions is strong and directly connected to the resolution of the plot, and the relationships that Jay develops felt authentic. Might be a great choice for reluctant male readers!

  26. 5 out of 5

    L C

    I received this ARC complimentary in exchange for an honest review. I LOVED this book. Jay was trying to be everything but a product of his environment which unintentionally lead him to be exactly that. Was he ever given the space to deal with his grief? Was he ever given space or the tools to communicate? Jay is someone I know and possibly someone you may know. Nic is every little girl searching for validation. I enjoyed the buildup with suspense and how everything connected towards the end. The I received this ARC complimentary in exchange for an honest review. I LOVED this book. Jay was trying to be everything but a product of his environment which unintentionally lead him to be exactly that. Was he ever given the space to deal with his grief? Was he ever given space or the tools to communicate? Jay is someone I know and possibly someone you may know. Nic is every little girl searching for validation. I enjoyed the buildup with suspense and how everything connected towards the end. There were a couple of cliches including the close friend from the other side of the tracks... but this may be relatable to some. YA should provide the space for youth to see themselves in text. This story does exactly that--now hopefully that won't include a kidnapping!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angela Grant

    Thank you to Books Forward and HarperCollins Publishers for providing an Advance Reader's e-proof via NetGalley for review. This may be considered a YA book, but it is a fantastic read for adults of all ages as well. I've just recently started branching out into more YA books, and stories like this are the reason why! It is smart, relatable, witty, romantic, suspenseful, compelling, and heartbreaking all in one. A serious page-turner that will keep you engrossed all the way through, with the adde Thank you to Books Forward and HarperCollins Publishers for providing an Advance Reader's e-proof via NetGalley for review. This may be considered a YA book, but it is a fantastic read for adults of all ages as well. I've just recently started branching out into more YA books, and stories like this are the reason why! It is smart, relatable, witty, romantic, suspenseful, compelling, and heartbreaking all in one. A serious page-turner that will keep you engrossed all the way through, with the added layer of important reflections and critical commentary on the way society perceives people based on the way they look (or where they live, or who their parents are, etc.). I was delighted by the writing style, which was perfectly readable in the best way. The characters were so well-developed and compassionately drawn that I was completely invested in the story the entire way, rooting them on as though they were truly known to me. The main character, Jay, did seem overly mature and considerate in a way I wouldn't necessarily expect from a teenager. It began to seem odd how carefully he thought about his words and actions, and how they would be interpreted by others, so I was relieved to see that shift as the tension rose and he became more impulsive and emotional. I certainly recommend When You Look Like Us.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erricka Hager

    3.75 ✨ BRB to write a review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alishia

    3.75 - pretty good! Just a little slow at times. I felt the characters could have been developed more so that they were more likeable.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Kelley

    Thank you Netgalley & Harper Collins for the early copy of this debut to review! Me and you against the world, right?” This book was a powerful debut. I don’t even know if I have the vocabulary to describe how beautiful this book was. The theme of this book is how Black individuals are treated much differently than White individuals when it comes to crime & punishment. When a Black girl goes missing, no one bats an eye. But when a White girl vanishes? Everyone is out there looking. And trust me, t Thank you Netgalley & Harper Collins for the early copy of this debut to review! Me and you against the world, right?” This book was a powerful debut. I don’t even know if I have the vocabulary to describe how beautiful this book was. The theme of this book is how Black individuals are treated much differently than White individuals when it comes to crime & punishment. When a Black girl goes missing, no one bats an eye. But when a White girl vanishes? Everyone is out there looking. And trust me, that’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s truth. The love that our main character had for his family and the passion he has for life, despite the hand that he was dealt, was refreshing and motivating. He did not stop at anything and along the journey he learned a lot about himself and his community.... and this was a DEBUT! The writing too was stunning! It sucks you right in and I didn’t want to put this down. I had to force myself to put my Kindle down so I could get decent sleep. I’m ending 2020, the most controversial & painful year finishing this beautiful, raw, and passionate book. I highly recommend it to all my fellow readers out there!

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