Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola (Honey and Spice)
For fake dating gone right, for gestures both grand and minute that matter equally as much, for characters who confront hard truths about themselves and challenge others to do the same, for excellent frienships, and yes, romance too
This is one of the few books this year — maybe the only book this year? — that I finished and feel like it was EASILY a five-star read, smashing through and getting all the way to the top. Loved it. 😍
Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.
They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?
So many of the women in this book sound like excellent people to be friends with and I wish I knew where to find folks like them. Making friends as an adult is weird, y’all. I think the female friendships in this book were very well done and I adored them. Yes, some of them come about because of a man, and they do talk about their men, but damn if it wasn’t so much more than that. It felt empowering and hilarious and vulnerable all at once.
This book also challenged me to think about my life, my impact, and the world in general. Often books that have a focus on equality (and inequality) can depress and/or enrage me, and then that’s all I’m left feeling. This one managed to inspire hope and determination that things can change, and that’s the key ingredient to a message like this one. I felt like it started with a “And how are YOU helping??” punch to the gut, and then dusted me off with a “I’ll forgive your ignorance/inaction/whatever IF you do the work and make some real change.” Loved it.
I learned a lot about Caribbean culture in this book, and also about how very white I am from all the predominantly-white places I’ve lived in my life. I LOVED hearing these characters’ way of speaking and thinking about the world because it was so different from the way I do, and it made me curious and engaged and smile. Every time I came across a word or phrase that I had never heard before I got all giddy and excited to learn it and taste it and enjoy it. Language is so wonderful. ^.^
And yes, YES! Romance! There’s obvious chemistry between the main pair, but I think I can just sum up how beautifully written it all was with this quote:
I regretted wearing something that showed off my middle. What if the butterflies flew too close to the edge of my stomach, so he could see the imprints of their wings pressed up against my skin?
And y’all? I HATE butterflies and still adored this line. 🥰