★★★✰✰ 3 of 5 stars
Uzodinma Iweala’s prose is both swift and elegant; there is something compelling about the way in which he phrases things, there is a rhythm to his writing. This deceptively short novel is rather heavy going. The summary is somewhat misleading, making it seem that we will follow Niru throughout his life rather than for just reading about his senior year. The story focuses in particular on Niru’s sexuality, which he attempts to repress, mainly due his conservative parents. Niru’s opens up to Meredith, his best friend and fellow classmate at their privileged high school.
While I loved the language of this book – eg. the imagery, the descriptions – I felt that it was all a bit rushed, and ultimately, Niru was too much of a cypher. While Iweala portrays the horrible things that Niru is forced to endure – as in his father’s attempt to ‘make him straight’ – in an incredibly affecting way but, at the same time, Niru was never fully ‘present’ in his own narrative. He escaped his readers, and while I do understand that this might be intentional, it just made me feel slightly less involved.
Meredith was another ‘problem’. Her character disappears for a large amount of the novel; her role seems to be that of an ‘instigator’ for tragic events, her friendship with Niru seemed unsubstantial, flimsy, since she regards him as a high school crush rather than a true person.
And yes, I was pissed off by the turn of events. Meredith is a negative presence in this novel, and I did not care to read from her pov.
And what exactly does this story leaves us with?
Ultimately, in spite of its heart-wrenching and contemporary themes, this novel is undermined by its evasive characters and its frustrating storyline.