Speak No Evil - Uzodinma Iweala
Release Date: 2018
Setting: Washington, DC, USA
My Rating: 3 Stars
A revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences.
On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.
When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed. (Source: Goodreads)
If it takes me more than 5 days to finish a book, it’s mostly because I am not enjoying it. I initially couldn’t quite place why I was not connecting with this book but as I kept reading, the gaps were glaring. It started with so much promise but shifted suddenly mid-way through and then ended so abruptly I am still reeling from the events.
Niru is an 18 year old Nigerian-American male living in D.C with his parents. He lives a privileged life and has everything going for him – his family is well to do, he is Harvard bound and is the school’s track star. He is however, a closeted gay man. When his best friend Meredith, a white American girl, makes a pass at him hoping to steer their friendship in a different direction, Niru comes out to her. With her encouragement, he attempts to reconcile his sexual identity but when his strict Nigerian father finds out, all hell breaks loose and he is forcefully taken back to Nigeria for spiritual intervention.
Meanwhile, Meredith, also from a privileged background is fighting her own demons – struggling with her unrequited feelings for Niru and her parents’ lack of attention. These two friends are pulled together and apart with great force and devastating consequences for all of them.
Sounds like a really great story and I did enjoy the first half of the book and especially Niru’s coming out struggle and his love interest. Much of it however fell short of expectations and this is why:
1. Character development was zero. None of the characters were well constructed to enable the reader (me) have mental images of them or get in their heads. I was unable to connect with any of them and this is a problem for me when reading a book. If I can't connect with any of the characters, I might as well give up on it altogether.
2. It felt like Iweala tried to tell 2 completely different stories in 200 pages and none was well executed. The stories were left hanging and that was frustrating. Was it supposed to be an LGBTI story? Or one about white privilege? Or police brutality against black people? There was a snippet of each but none fully formed or concluded.
3. Meredith was annoying as hell!!!!
4. The dialogue in the book, Jesus Christ! Whatever happened to quotations and inverted commas? Did they go out of style? The entire book is a long series of sentences and paragraphs with absolutely no quotations whatsoever.
5. The way this story was put together just didn’t work. I can’t quite place my finger on it but it didn’t flow.
I could go on and on. If you choose to pick this one up, I hope you enjoy it. 3/5 because the subject matter(s) is really important, otherwise, MEH!
Have you read this book? Whats are your thoughts?