Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh (9780525556206)
Ada has grown up living with her Nigerian father, her mother a ghost moving in and out of her life because of her struggles with addiction. Ada was not a petite little thing, instead thick waisted and with a hairy upper lip, her clothes boyish, she didn’t make friends easily at school. Now Ada is off at college, the first time she has been able to make decisions on her own. Her time at a Historically Black College has her exploring her sexuality and looking more deeply at her childhood. She is also steadily being drawn into dance, helped by one of her only friends at college, a girl who isn’t a student there. Suddenly, Ada’s strong body makes sense as she expresses herself through dance, taking ownership of her body and her past.
Iloh’s verse novel is pure power. She writes so much truth in these pages, directly talking about sexual abuse, playing touching games with other children, and the expectations of conformity at young ages around appearance. She also shows through emotion, sex and introspection that there is a way forward, as long as you are true to yourself and what you want to do with your life. Her verses are searing at times, other times like a dream, and still others a call to action. She writes with such compassion and courage here that it’s incredible that this is her first novel.
Ada is a marvelous character, full of trauma from her childhood, cared for by a father who was doing his very best for her, which sometimes was not enough. Just the poems about therapy as a small child are insightful and achingly raw, full of such confusion. It is Ada’s triumph in finding her own path that is full of music and dance that offers hope to the reader and inspiration as well.
Powerful, honest and triumphant. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from library copy.