Book Review

Review: Wahala by Nikki May

This was it. One of my absolute winners of the year. Largely that’s because I thought I was getting Nigerian girl-heavy romance. Instead, I got a lot more psychological thriller. And I LOVED IT.

Title: Wahala
Author: Nikki May
Pages: 384
Publisher: Random House/Doubleday
Publication Date: 6th January 2022
Ownership: eARC

Rating: 5 stars

Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though they don’t all choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her ‘urban vibe’ yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on love, race and family, Wahala will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Boldly political about class, colorism and cooking, here is a truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

My Review

Here’s what I was thought I was getting – three mixed-race girls having their Sex and the City moments in London, one new member of the group arrives, causes some disruption, everyone is stronger. Here’s what I got: a gripping, twisty little novel. There were some shock twists, and others I started to see creeping in, but just like a horror movie the characters don’t notice – run! you’re shouting – but they can’t hear! And they won’t listen to each other!

It’s also a superb portrayal of London, and of Nigerian culture (representing a range of experiences too – the girl brought up in a white family who needs Yoruba words and phrases explained to her, the wealthy Nigerian families and those who lost it all, with true culture, food and experiences peppered throughout). The experience of these women as mixed-race women created depth to the story, without making it the full focus. Instead that came through that thriller edge.

In particular, I loved how Isobel created her trouble – not only did she manage to ingratiate herself with the group, but she managed to pick and pick at each person’s insecurities or frustrations, helping them to blow them up into something much bigger.

The ending is … a little far-fetched? But honestly I was so blown away by the whole story, and the masterful slow drip storytelling, that I’m willing to forgive anything for just how good that was!!

Not to mention, a perfect title for an awful lot of trouble. 5 stars!

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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