When Nala reluctantly goes to an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. Tye’s perfect, except…he’s an activist and Nala would rather watch movies and try out new ice-cream flavours.
So, in order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies so she’ll have things in common with him. But as they spend more time together, those lies become harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into her lies she’ll learn love can be hard, but also self-love is truly revolutionary.
*This ARC was provided by Bloomsbury YA, please read our disclaimer policy for more information*
I can’t remember the last time I read a contemporary romance Young Adult novel prior to this, let alone one that features a Black family. A Jamaican family at that! This was such a heart-warming book that I was surprised really enjoy.
This book explores a young plus-sized Black girl falling in love with herself but I adored how Nala, our protagonist, didn’t have any issues or anything with her weight. She was happy with that – in fact, it was probably the one thing she was most confident about it. It was never brought up as something that hindered her confidence or that she was desperate to lose. Watson subverted that old ‘tired’ storyline of big girls hating their weight and desperate to lose it and explored a whole new avenue of self-love with a confident plus-sized girl at the forefront. And I’m so here for it.
“You really want to be something in this world – learn how to walk in a room being yourself and staying true to who you are.”
I can’t really pinpoint what it was Nala needed to love about herself. I think if anything it was just the confident being who you are. Not allowing other’s opinions to sway your thoughts and feelings. But I liked how Watson explored this changing relationship Nala had with herself, especially through her hair.
I know a lot of Black girls have had a love/hate relationship with their hair. The Eurocentric beauty standard told us that our hair was too difficult or wild. But Black hair is much more delicate than we ever been told and as Nala discovered, it is also incredibly versatile. Even though this was only a small way that Watson revealed how Nala fell in love with herself, it was a huge one for me because it resembled so much of my own relationship with my hair.
“My hair. After experimenting with different styles, I’ve come to love it for the many ways it can transform, for the story it is always telling.”
Additionally, I loved Watson’s use of lists. Yes, it was only a small but crucial element to the story but it gave me such a unique insight into Nala’s charcter, her past and even her relationship with certain family members. The more books I read with lists, the more I really adore them, especially in contemporary novels about relationships and life. It adds something different to the story and reveals little quirks about the character.
“ 1. Remember Yourself
2. Honor Yourself
3. Critique Yourself
4. Love yourself
This is how I plan to grow.”
Nala trying to change for a boy isn’t anything new but it was hard to read about, especially because this change felt very self-inflicted. I think Watson succeeded in showing that it was Nala who wasn’t confident about being true to herself and nobody asked her to change. She seemed very confused about who she was at times and I believe it stemmed from her relationship with her mother, which I would have liked to have been discussed in more detail. I could tell it had made a huge impact on Nala’s life but it was barely talked about.
Watson touched upon something really interesting through Imani, Nala’s cousin/sister. Imani was clearly very radical and dedicated her free time to helping others and trying to make the world a better place. But yet, for some reason, she came across very selfish and judging in the way she treated her family. There’s something to be said there on perhaps finding a balance to give attention to all things that matter to you, whilst trying not to become too wrapped up in one thing. Allowing people to be different without judging them for their choices just because it’s different to what you believe to be right.
I adored the Jamaican references. From the food all the way to specific Jamaican parishes e.g. Kingston, Spanish Town etc. It was so heart-warming reading about Jamaica that I think I may be a tad biased when it comes to this book. Nala’s relationship with her grandmother was also one of my favourite things about this book. She clearly adored her grandma and it was the representation of unconditional love between the two that was really nice to read.
“You two are family. Family. That alone ought to be enough for you to respect each other. You’re also two women. Black women. The most radical thing you can do is love yourself and each other.”
The concept and storyline of self-love is one that I’ll always advocate for, which is why I particularly liked how it ended. It felt very much like Nala was doing things for herself rather than for anyone else.
Something, I feel so many people can/need to relate to.
“Self-love is radical love. Today, I’ve started my own revolution.”