african author, african stories, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, romance, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola

Taynement: Hi, Leggy. It’s been a minute since we did one of these.

Leggy: Yup. I’m excited to discuss this one.

Taynement: We do a lot of chitchats on African authors because we’re excited to support their work but it also makes it more difficult to review. So what were your thoughts on this book?

Leggy: This book was the most exhausting slog of a book I’ve read this year. If we weren’t committed to this blog and to this ChitChat, and I was reading this just for pleasure, I would have DNF-ed it.

Taynement: Oh dear, it was a journey of a read for sure.

Leggy: I was actually quite excited to read this one. When we reviewed her previous book, I said that I was super excited to see what she would do with a long form romance book. So, I was going to pick this one up regardless of the blog.

Taynement: Everyone knows my stance on romance, so I can’t say that I was excited. More like I was preparing myself. You started before me and you told me you didn’t think I would make it.

Leggy: Once I started and it was hard for me, a rom com lover to get through it, I knew it would be even harder for you. First of all, this book read like a Dear White People fan fiction to me.

Taynement: Agreed. So here’s my thing, when I say it was a journey what I mean is the beginning was a struggle and then the book settled and then it became quite corny.

Leggy: The crux of the book is the fake dating trope and it should have started way earlier in the book. It started 35% into the book and I was already bored and restless when we got to the actual romance between them. If the editor had insisted that this book center the actual romance 100%, it would have worked better. Too much was going on in this book for me, story-wise.

Taynement: My problem with this book was the writing style. I say this a lot about African authors but they never let their words breathe. Instead, they wield them like heavy chains. I think Babalola overwrote a lot of the stories/scenes. So, it felt like playing dress up and imagining what people would say while also jam packing it full of clap backs/quips that are supposed to be clever, chockful of current slang but it fell flat. I’ll give an example: “My heart had never been compelled into competitive sports by boys and yet here it was acting like an Olympian, beating like its name was Serena.” Sheesh!

Leggy: Oh God, don’t get me started on how verbose this book is. I see your example and I raise you an even more overwritten passage: “The smile he gave her was mainstream, pop, radio-friendly. The smile he’d given me was the single released after an artist had established themselves, found their voice, could speak directly to their target audience. The smile he’d given me had more R&B to it.”

Taynement: Lord!

Leggy: I think the best lines are those that are profoundly quite and simple. It felt like the author wanted to show us she could write but these over written passages made me roll my eyes so much.

Taynement: Another thing, which I can’t really knock her for, is that she’s clearly proud to be African. So this book was very clearly African – more Nigerian/Yoruba but I couldn’t stop wondering how every black person on campus seemed to be African?

Leggy: Did this book read very American to you despite the number of British slang thrown in there?

Taynement: I was just about to bring that up! I don’t live in the UK but a lot of the language and events seemed…American? For one, not to be stereotypical but there was a lot of coffee drinking when I was expecting tea, lots of “ain’t”, even the Malakai police story read American.

Leggy: The debating All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter storyline seemed very American. Also, wasn’t this literally a storyline on Dear White People?

Taynement: These events didn’t help with the feeling that this book was trying to pack in relevant pop culture tropes to make it current. I spoke with my sister-in-law who lives and went to school in the UK and she said the school experience in the book definitely felt more American, so I was glad I wasn’t being too critical.

Leggy: This book was written for twitter.

Taynement: Yes!!

Leggy: That’s all I kept thinking. This is such a twitter inspired book.

Taynement: That being said, she tied in the honey and spice theme well and I did enjoy when Malakai and Kiki fell in love, I think she allowed the book to breathe then. It felt organic.

Leggy: I wish this book could have been purely about Malakai and Kiki falling in love. Take out the race issues, take out the guy she was sleeping with, have the high school best friend expose her as a “fraud” feminist. Then they break up, get back together and live happily ever after. I think the mistake a lot of authors of rom coms make is trying so hard to make their book deep. Your book is just as worthy as just a love story! Love stories are amazing!

Taynement: I did like the friendship stories. Aminah and Kofi being in love but working for it.

Leggy: Yes! Classic sidekicks which every good rom com needs! This book could have been great. If I was her editor, I would have told her to strip it. Stop over writing. You already have a book deal, we know you can write. Just tell us a good story!

Taynement: I think an observation I’ve made lately is authors seem to be writing for a book to screen adaptation.

Leggy: I thought the same thing about this book. It was really giving American high school movie. Everyone in this book read super young to me even though they were adults in college.

Taynement: I felt like it veered between YA and romance which was a mind trip because I know they’re in college. As a romance reader, was the climax of the book – them professing their love on par with other romance books? Because that felt like a lot! I found it super corny.

Leggy: Yes! It’s always corny but I think what makes it good corny in a well written romance book is that the rest of the book is so good and has made you so invested in the couple that you’re left smiling at the corniness of it all. The one in this book just made me roll my eyes and leap for joy that at last, the trial that was this book was over!

Taynement: Overall, we’d never say not to support a fellow Nigerian but bias aside, this was not a well written book.

Leggy: I would not recommend this book. I did not enjoy it. But if you’re interested, knock yourself out!

Have you read this one? What did you think? Let us know in the comments

Taynement & Leggy

1 thought on “We Chit Chat: Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola”

  1. Thanks for your review! I had already told myself her writing style was not my thing, but then I started seeing all the hype and almost got tempted to just read it anyway. Yet, everything y’all wrote here is EXACTLY what I feared about the book especially after reading her first one. Lol. But yeah, I do really admire her creativity and as a Naija babe, I’m definitely rooting for her. But this is confirmation the book is not for me.

    Like

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