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“Every Body Looking” by Candice Iloh: The debut young adult novel in verse that preaches the power of loving oneself

(Photo Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Kaliisha Cole
Connector Editor

On Sept. 22, new Young Adult novel in verse, “Every Body Looking”, was released by debut author, Candice Iloh. The novel’s structure of verses was unique while also reading like a typical prose novel, tackling the topics of starting college, family drama, body image issues and figuring out one’s identity. “Every Body Looking” follows a young woman navigating her way through college while reflecting on past experiences and manages to inspire readers on every page.

The story shifts between different sections of the main character, Ada’s, life. The story follows her through first grade, second grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, graduation and college, but is not in chronological order. The placement of sections makes the structure of the book a little strange, but the storyline flows smoothly in each section and paints a cohesive picture throughout.

Despite this, the same cannot be said for the overwhelming number of topics that are included in the novel. Ada is described as a fat, African American young woman who loves to dance and may identify somewhere along the LGBTQ+ spectrum. On top of navigating her personal identity, she deals with a toxic mother and a father who wants to mold her into his idea of a Nigerian-cultured daughter. In college, she is trying to figure out how to be independent of her father’s constant control and how to make friends that she had never been able to have prior to this stage in her life.

The reader can see the most progression from the main character in her college days once she discovers a dance class and makes a true friend for the first time in her life.  A lot of topics about gender and sexuality are addressed in this section of the novel.

Ada also gets a job helping an all-male basketball team and must hear their ongoing, toxic conversations regarding women. She additionally must endure the emotional abuse that the team inflicts upon her.

The author throws a lot into the novel and it can seem overwhelming to readers who do not resonate with some of the topics. The novels subjects fall heavily under the categories of mental health awareness, toxic masculinity, family trauma and body insecurity. “Every Body Looking” provides readers with the message that one cannot truly know or understand everything that has happened or is happening in an individual’s life. With this knowledge, the novel’s message can be quite overwhelming, especially in a setting as demanding as the college experience.

Even so, the book’s ending ties everything together well and the character growth of Ada is amazing for readers to uncover. Overall, the book itself is visually stunning from the cover design to Iloh’s writing style. “Every Body Looking” is testimony to the power of novels in verse that the YA genre is beginning to embrace, along with the incorporation of the diverse topics that have not been present in the genre for years prior. Iloh has a talent for the written word and this novel, while casual, is a thought-provoking piece that is worth checking out.

Overall Rating: B+

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