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Book Review: The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu

Title: The Private Joys of Nnenna

Author: Okechukwu Nzelu

Length: 310 pages

Publisher: Dialogue Books

Synopsis: As Nnenna Maloney approaches adulthood, she longs to connect to her Igbo-Nigerian culture. Her close and tender relationship with her mother, Joanie, becomes strained as Nnenna begins to ask probing questions about her father, whom Joanie refuses to discuss. Nnenna is asking big questions about how to ‘be’ when she doesn’t know the whole of who she is. Meanwhile, Joanie wonders how to love when she has never truly been loved. Their lives are filled with a cast of characters asking similar questions about identity and belonging while grappling with the often hilarious encounters of everyday Manchester.

I have to say I loved this book. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but I absolutely flew through it because I didn’t want to put it down.

In The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney we follow Nnenna as prepares to finish school, go to university and we see the strain in has on her relationship with her mother Joanie. Their relationship is the main focus of the book and its handled so delicately by Okechukwu. There’s lightness and you can feel the tension building.

It’s also a coming of age book, with Nnenna wanting to find out more about her father and her heritage. You can feel Nnenna’s longing and confusion. It’s really beautiful when she begins to discover who she is. I loved it.

There are so many characters in ‘The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney’ and they are all absolutely fantastic. They are so real. I just found myself absolutely endeared to all of them. I have to give a special shoutout to Jonathon. His story was incredible. I found this so emotional and so relatable. They are all so relatable because they’re written so beautifully and honestly. I loved how they all connected. Okechukwu knows how to craft characters.

This book has a lot of charm to it. I thinks it’s down to Okechukwu’s writing. It has these incredibly light and witty moments of Joanne and Nnenna playing games, or Joanie talking about every day moments, then it subtly shifts to much more meaningful, deeper and harder issues like the racism in the UK, or tension between Nnenna and Joanie. It’s just handled with dignity, honesty and grace. It’s a real highlight of the book.

I also have give a shoutout to a section of this book towards the end between to characters Amir and Daniel. It was handled perfectly. It was really beautiful. Okechukwu said so little but it said so much. I will never forget that powerful bit of writing.

I don’t know if you can tell from this review but I’m a huge fan of Okechukwu Nzelu’s writing. I can’t recommend this book to you enough. Please check it out.

Thank you to Dialogue Books for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Title: The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Synopsis: Los Angeles 1992. Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and their spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the summer days and endless possibilities of summer. But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodeny King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids. As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to carry on as if things were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family facade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends spread a rumour that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

Wow, this book is powerful. This is the kind of book that you’ll get swept up in the story, but it’ll teach you something. And to me that’s the best kind of fiction.

I always love a book where a character learns to love themselves or accept themselves, and in ‘The Black Kids’ we see Ashley learn to respect and love her race and it’s so beautifully done. As Ashley sees the pain and power in the protests and the looting, she begins to realise just how sheltered she’s been. To see her learn to stand powerfully in her skin is amazing. I’ve got shivers just writing about it. It’s a coming of age story, that needs to be told more.

The family dynamics are brilliant throughout the whole novel. As Ashley’s mother and father try to give her a better life than they had growing up, you see both the positive and negative affects it has on her and her sister. Jo, Ashley’s sister, is a fantastic character. There’s a complexity to her that Christina has written so well, but so subtly. It’s brilliant.

Even though this novel is set nearly 30 years ago, it’s still unfortunately just as relevant today. Although this book has many themes, race is definitely the main one and it’s what makes it brilliant. You see it in Ashley’s family life, her friendships. You can see it in the riots that Ashley is both scared of and longing to be a part of. It’s so complex.

While there were some incredibly powerful moment’s that I’ve highlighted in my kindle because they are such teachable moments. Its books like this that prove why own voices are important.

There is arc in this novel involving cheating (no spoilers) that maybe didn’t need to be there. Or definitely it needed to be handled a bit better. But that is the only fault I have with this wonderful, wonderful novel.

I would definitely recommend this book. It’s a fantastic YA book that should be required reading. It’s the perfect fiction book if you’re looking to diversify your reading habits. But also read it because it’s just damn good.

Thanks to Olivia at Simon & Schuster for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out August 4th.

Until the next review

JTH