By Akwaeke Emezi
My rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.13 Stars
Format Read: Ebook
Goodreads summary: New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
Thank you to Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review
I cannot say enough how much I loved this book. I saw one Goodreads review that said “emezi wrote this one for the bisexuals” and I could not agree more. The main character, Feyi, is bisexual, her love interest is a bisexual man, and her best friend is a lesbian. All of the characters were hot and doing incredible things in the world, despite carrying a lot of grief in their hearts.
Although this is a romance story, this is certainly not purely lighthearted. Feyi’s story was complex, weighed down by the death of her husband five years prior. She’s trying to get out into the dating world for the first time even though she’s not really sure if she’s ready to do that. She settles for just hookups at first, attempting something deeper slowly, and then all at once. The book makes use of occasional flashbacks to describe the car accident that Feyi and her husband were in, and these paragraphs bring so much emotion into the piece. Emezi is clearly a master at manipulating our feelings so that we’re sucked into Feyi’s world and everything they want us to feel.
I have not read any other books by Emezi, but based on some of the reviews, this book takes itself a bit less seriously than their previous books. There’s hot, descriptive sex scenes, Feyi and her best friend Joy going to clubs and hooking up, and healthy use of adult language in character’s dialogue scenes. It all worked for me, but I saw some people in the reviews that were surprised what they got themselves into. As someone who knew nothing going in except that it was a romance, this book was way deeper than I thought it would be and I loved it.
I’ve already said that Feyi felt extraordinarily complex and real. In terms of love interests, there were three, and I believe that for the most part they were also well developed. There were definitely some gaps, but the story was from Feyi’s perspective and so these gaps worked to let us in as much as Feyi wanted to enter. Joy, Feyi’s best friend, was only present via Facetime for a large chunk of the novel, but she still felt like a real person. Emezi managed to give her a whole side story that I was rooting for the entire time, which is difficult to do when the main focus is very much on Feyi and her relationships.
The other thing that made this book fun- the opulence. Feyi is an up and coming artist who hasn’t yet made it big, but even in the beginning of the novel it doesn’t feel like she’s struggling. When she goes home with Nasir, everything ratchets up a level. Nasir’s father, Amir, is a Michelin star chef and they’re RICH. So you have Feyi dressed in all gold walking around Amir’s mansion and eating the (beautifully described) food that he prepares of her.
Everything is beautiful. This book was a story of struggling with grief and moving on– Feyi repeats the words “I’m alive” often throughout the story– but it was also a black bisexual success story on two fronts. I was so drawn to this story because of its emotional richness, but it is also powerful to see Feyi and Amir thrive despite the struggles life has thrown at them. Emezi’s writing matches the beauty of what they are writing about; each sentence flows wonderfully into the next and seems designed to cast images of beauty and excess in the reader’s mind.
If it wasn’t clear already, I loved this book. It was strongly character driven, but enough happened outside of Feyi’s head that there were always distractions, always physical actions for Feyi to take on her journey with her grief. I loved hearing about the art Feyi made, and how she managed to recover from a seemingly unrecoverable situation. This book was a romance but it was so much deeper than that.
I will most definitely be going back and reading Emezi’s other books soon. While writing this, I learned that they are the author of Pet (a YA book) and The Death of Vivek Oji, both of which I’ve heard amazing things about and cannot wait to read myself.