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Every Body Looking (Ada, #1) – Candice Iloh

RATING: ★★★★☆
TITLE: Every Body Looking (Ada, #1)
AUTHOR: Candice Iloh
RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2020
PUBLISHER: Penguin Teen, Dutton Books
GENRE(S): YA Contemporary, Poetry/Verse, LGBT

Thank you to Penguin Teen, Dutton Books and NetGalley for my ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.


Every Body Looking is a debut novel in verse in the style of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds. Candice Iloh’s book tells the story of Ada–daughter of an immigrant father and an African American mother–and her struggle to find a place for herself in America and in her own family.

“This is a story about the sometimes toxic and heavy expectations set on the backs of first generation children, the pressures woven into the family dynamic, culturally and socially. About childhood secrets with sharp teeth. And ultimately, about a liberation that taunts every young person.”–New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds

Every Body Looking is a heavily autobiographical novel of a young woman’s struggle to carve a place for herself–for her black female body–in a world of deeply conflicting messages.

Told entirely in verse, Ada’s story encompasses her earliest memories as a child, including her abuse at the hands of a young cousin, her mother’s rejection and descent into addiction, and her father’s attempts to create a home for his American daughter more like the one he knew in Nigeria.

The present-tense of the book is Ada’s first year at Howard University in Washington D.C., where she must finally confront the fundamental conflict between who her family says she should be and what her body tells her she must be.

Ada is a girl struggling silently. The daughter of a Nigerian father and a mostly absent addict mother, she grows up just trying to discover who she is. She is black. She is “fat.” She is a good girl. A smart girl. But WHO is she?

With no real friends to speak of and being told what to do, who to be, what to believe in, she cannot wait to move on. After her high school graduation, she attends a black college where she is hoping to make a new life for herself. She struggles in her classes, struggles trying to keep up with social constricts, when all she wants to do is dance.

She meets Kendra, another dancer, who befriends her and introduces her to a whole new world of dance, classes and instructors, where Ada can finally be herself. But, still she struggles. Caught between what her dad wants, what her mom wants, what her professors want, what teenage boys want, she struggles to find what SHE wants.

This was told in verse, but also goes back and forth between present day and through different times in her younger years, all which paint an abstract picture of who she is and what has happened to her- the events in her life that have brought her to where she is now and the person she is.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Through the whole book, I was waiting for Ada to step up and finally do something for herself. To finally do what it was that SHE wanted to do. By the end, I realized that it wasn’t about what I wanted for her or what I thought she should do. I had to sit back and let Ada tell the story- let Candice Iloh tell the story. I went into this not realizing it was in verse. Not realizing that there were things talked about that were truly heavy. But I ended up LOVING it and feeling better for knowing that piece of Ada, knowing Magic!


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