by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
I listened to Bolu Babalola's Honey & Spice (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), a new adult romance, thanks to Libro.fm, and I absolutely loved the way that Babalola explored so many facets of relationships within the novel while also exploring social and racial dynamics within a university setting.
Kiki Banjo is a Black British woman at Whitewell University, where she leads a popular university radio show called Brown Sugar, which focuses on giving advice to the women of the university so that they can avoid relationship pitfalls.
Outside of her radio show persona, Kiki prefers to remain aloof with only her best friend Amina as a companion, but a series of events forces her into the spotlight.
Malakai Korede, a recent transfer student, has gotten the attention of many of the women on campus, and because of this, Kiki takes him on in her radio show, advising campus women about how to best prevent him from dividing their sisterhood. But Malakai is not what he seems, and Kiki finds herself torn between remaining aloof and diving into the feelings she realizes she's developing.
“Sometimes beautiful things get messy. Mess is okay.”
This novel is richly woven with many layers and a delightful, laugh-out-loud banter throughout that hits its target every time. I love the way that Babalola shows both Kiki and Malakai as young adults struggling to pursue their own passions and career paths -- hers in digital media and his as an indie film creator -- that are different from the imposed plans of their immigrant parents.
I love the secondary characters in the book and the exploration of the ways that women can and do support each other. The social commentary about the dynamics on campus is nuanced and powerful, and Kiki and Malakai are richly drawn characters full of complexity, curiosity, and a willingness to grow and change even when it's hard. This is a phenomenal novel (Babalola's debut in this genre), and I'm excited to read her other works.
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