You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Xolo Score 4/5
Feyi Adekola is doing her best to continue living after watching her husband die in a car accident five years ago. Truthfully Feyi sometimes wishes that she had died too. She’s a visual artist who exposes that grief in eclectic art pieces that strike a deep chord with those who empathize. But with the help of her loveable and spunky best friend Joy, Feyi feels she is in a place to start dating. When Feyi meets the handsome and charming Nasir, it feels like Feyi has found the perfect romance until Nasir invites her on a spontaneous trip to the Caribbean, where Feyi finds herself entirely falling for someone who is absolutely off limits.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Joy constantly supports and motivates Feyi to love all the contradictory parts of her life and insists that she is deserving of love. And at its surface level, the novel seems like a heterosexual love story, but You Made a Fool of Death is very Queer. Joy is a lesbian dealing with relationship drama. Feyi is bisexual and has hooked up with Joy in the past. And Alim, Nasir’s celebrity chef father, tells Feyi about the man he fell in love with after his wife died but left because of his children’s disapproval.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty is an unconventional romance novel focusing on Feyi’s healing journey many years after her husband’s death. Feyi has been trying to coexist with her grief and ensure it doesn’t keep her from living. Only her best friend and roommate Joy has seen the work Feyi has done to be “someone who could intimidate because she had chosen to be shocked, care, and allow her heart to shed the deep dark scale she grew.” Feyi uses a lot of dark elements in her art, such as pig blood, that may not stand out to the typical art enthusiast but resonates deeply with those who have also learned to live with the ever-present feelings of grief.
Unlike most romance novels, You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty incorporates characters’ grief as an ever-present and vital part of their journey to find personal and romantic love. And that journey can be messy as hell. Feyi unintentionally connects with Alim deeply in their shared but vastly different losses. The deep connection flourishes into a love that is gentle and insatiable. And during the eventual fallout between Feyi and Nasir, the novel rejects the idea of entitlement people may feel to someone’s love because they were a decent human being – “You don’t get points for waiting for me. I didn’t use you. I didn’t lead you on. I went as far as I felt comfortable and stopped there.” You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty subverts many tropes in the Romance genre while emphasizing that no matter how much pain we carry, we are worthy of love and joy.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty is an unconventional summertime Romance novel that embraces the complexities of grief and love.
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To what extent are there BIPOC leading characters or perspectives?
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To what extent does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?
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