THE PLOT: ‘Wahala’ by Nikki May is commercial women’s fiction about three Anglo-Nigerian friends. Ronke – who wants happily ever after, even though her current bae appears to be another dodgy Nigerian boyfriend. Boo – who has everything Ronke wants, but is desperate to remember who she was before the husband and kids. Simi – who has the perfect lifestyle, but no one knows she’s crippled by impostor syndrome at her cool fashion job. When rich, charismatic Isobel explodes into the group it seems like she’s a perfect fit. But the more Isobel intervenes, the more chaos she sows, and friendships begins to crack…
RATING: This book is a four-star rollercoaster. ‘Women’s fiction’ can sometimes be seen as a derogatory term in publishing, but I believe this book is perfect women’s fiction. It’s about women’s interior lives, their friendships and sexuality, motherhood and wifehood, and I love how it looks at these common themes through three mixed-race characters and showcases their diversity of experiences. As a British-Nigerian, I hardcore related to this book and I really hope lots of people read it. A gripping plot with lots of twists, complex characters who are flawed but (mostly) relatable, and deeper themes of womanhood, racism and colourism – what more could you want in a novel?
GOOD BITS: Can we clap for the plotting in this book? Even though it deals with some weighty underlying themes, I found it really fun. Okay, that sounds weird, but it’s soooo addictive and absorbing. The plot is full of twists and turns, and I was 100% hooked from the first page. The characters feel realistic because they’re not perfect. In fact, they’re terrible (except for Ronke). I completely hate Boo and I hope she gets therapy for her internalized racism and self-hatred. But the flawed characters are part of what makes this book so interesting.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Almost every chapter contains fatphobic mentions of weight/size. I understand that the book explores a general idea of goodness meaning thinness (and proximity to whiteness), but I found it very difficult to read. Overall, my issue is that fatphobia and weight as a theme never affects the core plot and never gets its own resolution. For example, Ronke’s best friends continually talk about her size in such a derogatory way and none of them ever realise that this is horrible. If Boo learned to be less fatphobic by the end of the novel, it could’ve been a redeeming quality and worked well in comparison to Simi’s underlying disordered eating and Isobel’s ideas about the value of thinness.
And… I know this shouldn’t matter but it really upset me when it was revealed that Ronke is a size fourteen. No one’s size should be equated with being gross but it irked me that they made such a big deal of her being “fat” but she’s actually completely average. I know this isn’t the author’s intention but I sadly think this book perpetuates a warped idea that size eight is the norm.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘So Lucky’ by Dawn O’Porter, Sex and the City, and ‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It’s got multiple points of view, a little bit of glamour and a whole lot of darkness – a fun romp of a novel that lots of different people will be able to enjoy.
Thank you to DoubleDay for my #gifted copy as part of the ‘Wahala’ blog tour.