Wahala, Nikki May’s debut novel, has been getting a ton of buzz in library-land, so I was super excited to get my hands on a copy. Wahala follows three Anglo-Nigerian friends living in London, Ronke, Simi, and Boo. When Simi introduces Isobel, a friend from her childhood in Nigeria, to the group, cracks start to form. What follows is a roller-coaser train wreck that somehow manages to reach epic levels of preposterousness before anyone realizes where the chaos started from.
But, before we get to that over the top ending, there are already problems. Our main characters are each very much a type, and not terribly well developed. Simi: rich, fashion-obsessed, husband wants kids but she’s secretly on the pill. Boo: married, small child, resents her family, knows nothing about her Nigerian heritage. Ronke: short, plump, loves to cook, only dates Nigerians, desperately looking for The One. Honestly, we really don’t get much more character development than that. There are plenty of issues here that the author could have dug into (colorism, self-hate, growing up mixed-race in rural England), but May doesn’t seem interested in looking past the surface. Ronke is the only character I found sympathetic, and it was honestly weird how much time the author spends reminding us that Ronke is curvy, Ronke loves to eat, Ronke has big curly hair, Ronke is a sucker… Other readers have called out the author for colorism; I’d add a dash of fat phobia.
I think the thing that makes me most crazy, though, is how quickly Isobel was able to insinuate herself into the group; every one of the main characters refused to listen to their instincts; and no one talked to each other! The “twist” was telegraphed right along; it was embarrassing how long it took the characters to put 2 + 2 together.
Still a three star read because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the train wreck, and because of the recipes at the end of the book.