You Look Something: an indigenous coming-of-age novel
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles (12-2020)
“You Look Something: an indigenous coming-of-age novel” by Jessica Mehta, is the stellar story of a young half-Cherokee, half-white woman trying to make it in college and adulthood. This novel deftly spins a mesmerizing web of emotion, truth, and life. Thrown from her home by divorced parents as a teenager, Julia leaves her small Oregon town and an abusive relationship to spread her wings in the big city of Portland at college. She can pass for white, but her golden tan skin prompts comments like “You look something” as if to say ,”You look “ethnic, but I’m not sure which group or race.” This poetic book is a level above most coming-of-age novels and is actually the prequel to Mehta’s award-winning 2017 debut, “The Wrong Kind of Indian.” With college being her ticket up and out, she wrestles with all sorts of obstacles and attitudes–her own self-image being one of the biggest. She has a lot to overcome, but she knows it will be worth the fight.
Mehta has crafted a smart, insightful character who grows and changes right before your eyes as you read. Through the chapters, you feel like you are living Julia’s story, not just reading along. This is due to the author’s beautiful phrasing and word choice. She sets up vivid imagery, tactile sensations, and visceral emotions. The pacing is perfect; you zip through the chapters in a kaleidoscope of scenarios and interactions. Finding yourself as a young adult is hard enough, with the self-doubt, self-image, uncertainty, and an unstable background, but it’s even more challenging when you have to do it facing negative stereotypes, racism, and misunderstandings. There are so many intriguing passages in this novel, but a striking example is when her mother dyed Julia’s hair as a child to cover the real color of it and is disappointed in her looks. I love the tough parts – I love the poignant parts. If you like character studies, you’ll love Julia. “You Look Something: an indigenous coming-of-age novel”, by Jessica Mehta, does more than entertain. It makes you think, feel, and understand.