Taking place in Southern Nigeria, this book is about Vivek Oji; A bright light shining in a place that would dim it (or blow it out) had anyone known the truth. I would say this is a novel about pure love and identity, with elements of murder-mystery thrown in.
Vivek was killed, and their body was discovered by their mother on the doorstep of their home. But this problem seems to not be at the forefront of this book. I nearly forgot amidst reading it I was trying to figure out how and why Vivek died. What mattered most to me was how Vivek lived on this earth, and how Vivek continues to exist after their short time on it.
The book shifts to different character perspectives, including Vivek, their mother Kavita, their cousin (and lover) Osita, and various other characters you meet along the way who provide context into the short life of Vivek, or gives life to the town and the societal norms it forces upon the children within it.
Akwaeke Emezi does an amazing job displaying the full range of human emotions in great, heart-wrenching depth. I could not stop crying at the end of this book. Not due to sadness (although it was really, really sad), but more due to the faint light of hope it ignites within one’s self to be who they are, fully. Regardless of the consequences.
This book is a great read for those struggling with their identities, or love someone who is. Everyone in this book loves Vivek purely and wholly. Whether they do justice by Vivek with this love is another story.
At times, it can be a bit confusing with all of the names and characters being thrown around, but you will feel firmly rooted in the plot by the middle of the book and be able to picture each character in great detail. You will feel like you are in Vivek’s home, watching them wither away from the pressure of denying themselves, or at their friend’s house, watching Vivek be free and happy as their friends look on with wonder.